Harmoniously Dividing Assets After a Death

February 15, 2009 by Jenn · 2 Comments 

No one wants to think about dying; and many people don’t until it’s too late! Even then, dividing up the assets after death can cause a lot of emotionally charged issues. Sally wants the piano and Mary wants the ring! The problem is the Sam also wants the piano and Pam always thought SHE would get the ring instead. These family squabbles over assets can turn from harmonious to disa

One Last Ride

One Last Ride

ster in about 2 seconds flat.

That’s why there are many families these days who are changing the rules to make everyone’s lives easier when someone passes away. In some cases, they are even making it more like a game of chance. Some of the ideas are creative, and others are just a little bit weird.

Get a Head Start

I thought one of the best ideas was giving stuff away while you’re still alive. That way you know exactly where it’s going, and people can get their complaints out now rather than after you’ve passed away. It’s also a plus because it can hep you save on estate taxes if you’ve got things that are worth big bucks.

Have a Lottery

Another family decided to pull straws to figure out the order they got to choose heirlooms. That way there was no favoritism and no complaining. It was just a matter of luck whether you got the short straw or a longer straw. Sometimes nature just needs to take its course and humans need to stay out of it to avoid squabbles.

Treasure Hunt

Probably the most fun was when the person who eventually died left colored dots on the back of items. That way, everyone just had to go around and take part in a ‘treasure hunt’ to find what had been given to them. It’s hard to argue with the wishes of someone who has just passed away (though people still manage to do it).

Come Back from the Grave to Explain

Finally, some people have decided to record videos of themselves discussing their wishes. Children who are feeling sore because they didn’t get what they want will suddenly put a sock in it when they hear mom or dad’s wishes from beyond the grave.

While some of these ideas are discussed with a tongue in cheek attitude, they really can work well. It all depends on how your family tends to handle these things. Everyone hopes that family members will be graceful and remember that the ‘stuff’ is nowhere near as important as the life that left it behind. Once we forget that, we’ve lost touch with reality.

Still, it’s inevitable that these squabbles will appear. It’s either that something is worth so much money it never seems fair giving it to just one person, or the item carries so much sentimental value that everyone wants it as a memento. That’s probably why choosing a strategy like those listed above is so helpful. Your hope is that it ends up like this:

“The next night, heirs gathered, and one gave a brief tutorial on silver markers. Over cocktails, they made their silver selections. ‘It was fun,’ says the granddaughter. ‘Not everyone got everything they wanted, but it was equitable. There was no acrimony.’”

No matter how your family decides to divide up the riches, always remember to honor the person behind them. If you don’t get that memento or jewel you were coveting: let go and move on. That’s how the person who’s passed on would have wanted it. Family should always come before objects. Just because someone else got the trinket that you covetted, it doesn’t mean that you were loved any less.