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How do you divide family heirlooms in an estate?

On Behalf of | Nov 17, 2021 | Estate Planning

You may not yet realize this, but your most precious family heirlooms probably aren’t what you think they are.

Even if your heirs have definite opinions about “what’s fair” when it comes to dividing Grandma’s jewelry or Grandpa’s watch collection, the real battles may start over something with little monetary worth — like Nana’s cast iron pan. It’s often small, less valuable objects that will start intense family feuds.

Ways to minimize disputes

Once you’ve decided how you want to handle your major assets and any items of great value (like your jewelry or coin collection), you can decide on a method for handling the more personal mementos and family heirlooms that you have sitting around.

Here are five potential options:

  1. Ask your heirs what they want. Nobody may want your Avon bottle collection, but everybody may want the carving set that Dad used only at Thanksgiving. If you’re lucky, you can come to some compromises now, and then put those bequeathments in writing.
  2. Give away what you can now. This is particularly a good idea if you’re downsizing in your senior years. If you want your youngest granddaughter to have the quilt you crocheted, give it to her now.
  3. Insist on a predetermined system. Your will can direct your heirs to draw lots and each chooses one item they want in their turn until everything is either taken or abandoned.
  4. Order your executor to sell everything. An estate sale means the money will go back into your estate anyhow, so let your heirs buy what they want the most at auction.
  5. Hold a pretend auction. You can tell your executor to give each of your heirs an equal amount of Monopoly money and let them bid on what they want. That forces them to prioritize their want.

When putting your estate plans in order, there may be all kinds of future scenarios that need to be considered. Make sure that you have experienced legal guidance along the way.