Keeping the Peace: Six Good Ideas for Dividing Your Loved One’s Possessions

By: Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services
Monday, August 10, 2020

Combining grief, stress, and treasured heirlooms can be a challenge for families. That’s why the loss of a loved one sometimes tests the bonds of even the closest families.

People do unusual things in the throes of grief, and that behavior often worsens when personal property, valuable items, and other cherished possessions must be allocated among heirs. Here are a few smart steps you can take to ensure that divvying up your stuff doesn't ultimately split up your family.

1. Give things away while you are living.

If there are specific articles you want to bequeath, present them to those recipients now. It can be rewarding to see your prized possessions go to people who love and appreciate them.

2. Put it in writing.

A little foresight and planning could spare your family a lot of infighting. Ensure that the items you want to bestow to particular family members end up in their proper places by making a list and referencing it in your will. So that it can be easily updated, this legal document that details your wishes for your tangible personal property can exist separately from the will itself. Don't exclude items of little monetary value from your list. Put some thought into the things that may have particular sentimental value to each of your children. You can even ask them what specific items are the most personally meaningful. Once you have made these assignments on paper, be sure to give the list to your estate planning attorneys to make it legally binding.

3. Get expert appraisals.

Knowing the monetary value of various items in the estate is useful for tax purposes and in determining how they should be distributed so that everyone gets a fair share. This information is also helpful to the personal representative in carrying out his or her responsibilities.

4. Have a drawing.

If a loved one has passed and there are no designated heirs for specific assets, determining who gets what can be a long, drawn-out process. For articles of similar value, why not let fate take its course? Write down each item on a separate slip of paper. Then, toss them in a bowl in groups, categorized by value, and take turns choosing. Be sure to get everyone’s agreement in advance to the terms and outcome of the drawing.

5. Rely on copies.

Precious items like family photos and home movies can be difficult to distribute fairly. Fortunately, digital images and videos can be distributed electronically and printed photos can be copied into high-quality digital or hardcopy images that are virtually indistinguishable from the originals.

6. When all else fails, bring in a mediator.

Where there are conflicts among family members over particular items, mediation can be invaluable. Estate attorneys often act in this capacity but professional mediators also exist. The mediation process can help family members get at the root of the distribution process, establishing consensus and healing old wounds rather than aggravating them.

Important life events have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in everyone. Distributing assets like furniture, jewelry, china, silverware, artwork, and photographs is often the most difficult challenge in settling an estate. Talk to an elder law or estate attorney about how you can avoid family discord over the distribution of your loved one’s personal possessions.

If you have questions or need additional guidance to distribute a loved one’s assets, our compassionate professionals are here with access to helpful tools and resources. Please reach out to our caring team.

About Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services: As a leading African American-owned and operated funeral and cremation organization, Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services has provided a ministry of care to thousands of grieving families. We promise to provide our highest level of distinguished service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. In all aspects of the funeral process, we strive to be the absolute best and are honored to help preserve our clients’ legacies for future generations. With two convenient locations serving North and West Philadelphia, it is always our pleasure to be of service. Please visit our website for more information.

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