Quite frequently, we hear about friction among family members regarding the division or allocation of some items of the estate, resulting in stress and feuds among siblings and other heirs. There are stories about heirs taking items even before the death of a relative, or siblings fighting over the same object when an elderly relative has offered it to both in separate conversations. Brothers and sisters have never spoken again over disagreements related to the division and distribution of an estate.
Most families have to eventually face the realities associated with asset distribution after the death of a patriarch or matriarch who has accumulated assets and heirlooms dear to everyone in the family circle. Some assets are simply trinkets of sentimental value; others could be family treasures of significant monetary value; or, in some situations, such as furniture, antiques, and jewelry, possessions are likely to have both sentimental and financial value. Deciding on how to pass on assets without compromising your safety network or quality of life before you pass away can sometimes present some complexities that demand careful planning and consideration of everyone’s feelings and financial needs. After interviewing numerous families struggling with how to satisfy the emotional and financial needs of their heirs, we came up with five excellent suggestions that might just help others facing similar circumstances.
Have an Heirloom Party
Why not have some fun and host a family reunion where everyone gets to pick a favorite item? Or, if needed, it could be an opportunity to work things out with siblings and negotiate who gets to keep what. Put some rules around it and call it an early Christmas present for all. The goods don’t have to be super valuable, and you might want to include family pictures, documents, or other mementos that can’t be duplicated. When differences arise, you will be present to make a final determination and give everyone a sense of equanimity in the whole situation.
Why Not Opt for a Silent Auction Benefiting a Charity
If the heirs are mature and well off, then why not have a silent auction? Invite only heirs and have them bid for family heirlooms. The profits can then be donated to a charity of choice or divided equally among the heirs at a future time.
Sell Items Likely to Create Sibling Conflict and Divide the Profits Equally
If there are items likely to create a great deal of family friction, then consider selling them before you pass away. While in the short term it might be a painful move, it may just salvage relationships among siblings.
Consider Utilizing a Vacation Home
If you have a large number of family heirlooms, significant assets, and many heirs, then you may want to consider purchasing a vacation home. Decorate and furnish it with heirlooms and other items of historical, genealogical, and sentimental value, and set it up in such a way that generations to come can enjoy the property during times of leisure while remaining profitable as a private vacation rental.
Finally, don’t forget your digital assets and intellectual legacy. Make it a point to document how you want to provide access to those nearest to you after you are gone or start sharing now.
The goal in estate planning is dual. First, you must protect yourself and ensure you have the means needed to finish life with dignity. Second, you must see that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. With a little planning and consideration to those you love, it is possible to achieve both goals while giving everyone a token of affection, either before or after you pass away.