The Irony of Heirlooms

You can count on Murphy’s Law when dealing with heirlooms and dividing estate contents — something almost always goes wrong!  I’ve had a front seat for nearly 20 years, and seen more than my share of serious feuds, estrangements, the “entitlement mentality”, and the rapid gathering of vultures and other green-eyed creatures.  Sibling rivalry, as well as tensions and emotions, are at an all-time high; the executor is generally stuck in the middle, not wanting to ruffle any feathers.

Often, certain family members will take it upon themselves to enter the estate, take what they desire, and leave everyone else in the dark and empty-handed.  We’ve all heard the scary stories.  One brother locks the other brother out of the house and takes everything in the middle of the night.  A sister helps herself to valuable jewelry without asking, or the long lost sibling who returns after 30 years to claim a chunk of the inheritance.  All of these scenarios, plus so many more, add fuel to the fire and cause decades of resentment and bitterness.

We all have a connection to this particular issue because we have either been through it, are getting ready to go through it, or are dreading the very thought of it.  Unfortunately, when a family member dies, or is approaching death, those who feel entitled come calling.  Suddenly, heirs and distant relatives surface that you didn’t know existed, and true colors shine through in various shades of green.

For what reason does this occur over and over again?  Is it because of perceived value from generations of family stories that one particular piece has tremendous monetary value?  Is it over a sentimental item, like mom’s reading glasses, a family Bible, or a wedding band?  Do people want these items because they feel the loved one who died is still close by?  Or is it plain old greed?

Here’s the irony: People are fighting over things they can’t take with them either.  We exit this world the way we came into it, with no material possessions.

Read my solution in the next blog entry below!

© 2010 Julie Hall

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