How to Behave As an Heir

Recently, I did a podcast for Moving Forward Matters in Ottawa, Canada.  Here’s the link to my 10 minute discussion on Estate Etiquette.

Here are several suggestions for how to behave as an heir in the estate of your parent or close loved one.

  1. Sit down and say what’s on your mind.  Beating around the bush confuses everyone.  Confrontation is not necessarily a bad thing.  My father always said that the day after a thunderstorm is usually clean, bright, and beautiful.  It clears the air and so does a confrontation that is more about sharing than finger pointing. 
  2. It’s vital to do everything you can to keep the peace.  To avoid heartache and resentment, do your best to take the “high road.”  It feels good to do so, though it’s not always easy.
  3. Validate the other person’s feelings if they share them with you.  At least, listen.  Repeat what they said to you so they feel you heard them.  Both should agree to simply do the best you can to smooth it over somehow.  A photo of Mom and Dad sitting in front of you wouldn’t hurt.  After all, this is about honoring them and not about the heirs.
  4. Encourage others to be a part of the healing process, if they would like to be.  It is not about taking sides.  It is about encouraging both parties to do what they can to heal the hurt.  Always remain objective and try very hard to see the other side.  

Dividing heirlooms can be one of the most contentious experiences of our adult lives.  There is no way to completely eliminate family squabbles.  But, you can learn to put them out when they are smoldering, instead of when they grow into a full-blown forest fire.

© 2011 Julie Hall


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