Sneak Peek: Two heirs want the same heirloom

Here’s the sneak peek from my new book, How to Divide Your Family’s Estate and Heirlooms Peacefully and Sensibly, available at the right side bar of this blog.

Problem: Two of my siblings are fighting over the same heirloom.  How do you split that?

Solution: When two or more are arguing over the same item(s), you have a few options, but ultimately it is up to the level of stubbornness of the people involved.

  • One heir simply turns the other cheek and forfeits to the other.  Rememeber that all of the values need to be kept equitable.  If Sue gets a $5,000 item and Barbara gets a $200 item, that is not equitable and other arrangements must be made, whether in cash assets or other items, to make up for the $4,800 deficit.
  • One sibling can offer to buy the item from the others and take it out of their inheritance.
  • They can write up an agreement and share the item, if it is small enough to share.  Then again, this decision only postpones that inevitable decision for later in life.  When the siblings die, now their children have to contend with the same issue.
  • If no one can agree and the arguing continues in a “no one is going to give in” pattern, I recommend the executor sell the item through an appropriate auction and split the proceeds by the number of siblings.  Yes, the siblings will be upset, but that is more acceptable than resenting each other the remainder of their lives.
  • What would mom or dad want?  Would they permit this kind of treatment towards one another?  In most cases, the answer is no.  They would be disappointed, having trusted you to make decisions that they probably should have made while they were alive, but for whatever reason, they didn’t.  You can’t go back; you can only go forward.  So go forward, knowing what your parents would have wanted and go forth doing what they would have wanted.

© 2011 Julie Hall