(NEWS CENTER) - Often the distribution of things with sentimental meaning can be challenging for children after a parent's death, as these personal items often have a powerful effect on heirs.
Sarah Halpin, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER with The Danforth Group of Wells Fargo Advisors visited the MORNING REPORT with some tips to help ensure that who gets grandma's curio cabinet doesn't spark a long term family feud.
It's almost impossible to divide personal property equally, because children have different emotional attachments to different items. These items may help preserve memories and family history and often play an important part in helping people through the grieving process.
1. Set Ground Rules. For example rule number one may be that only immediate heirs should be involved in the division process. All others such as spouses, grandchildren, in- laws and friends should not participate, as sometimes the more people involved the more emotions can escalate. Another rule may be to agree that nothing is removed from the home or property before an inventory and the official division process. Removing items without the consent of all heirs can create conflict.
2. Decide on a Process. Once you have a household inventory, give everyone a chance to select what's most meaningful to them. This gives people a chance to sidestep battles and helps identify which items may be contentious. A family auction is helpful for heirs that live far from one another. Each heir receives 10,000 "virtual points" to bid for the items they want. They can spend all 10,000 points on one object or they can divide the points and bid on a number of items. For items that have lots of claimants you might draw straws to establish an order for heirs to select items. What is most important is that everyone has input to deciding the process and that it is deemed fair.
3. Strive for Parity. Items of significant monetary value such as antiques and jewelry should be appraised. If there is just one pair of diamond earrings, whoever wants them can pay the other heirs for their shares via a reduced inheritance or cash. Items that are impossible to split fairly should be sold and the proceeds shared amongst the heirs.
The best solution is to make a sound plan for heirlooms prior to death, so no one can question. It's nice to be able to pass on family heirlooms but no material possession is worth damaging our family relationships.