How do you divide estate property equally between siblings?
I thought I saw an article on equal disbursement with a chart showing how to do it, but can't find it now. My siblings are upset with me because I said it made sense in the bookkeeping world to have everyone buy their take of personal property (including sentimental items). That way, our sister, the administrator, only has to write checks with the same amount to everyone on settlement day. So, they went ahead with that idea. We had our own mini auction and agreed on prices. Does that also apply to the real estate? Is there a pro or con for equal disbursement? I feel it is more fair to the ones who are buying only sentimental items. Am I correct in this thinking?
Whatever you and your siblings decide to do, you must all be guided first and foremost by what the will stated -- or if there was no will, by the controlling state law, called the law of intestate succession. If the will or the law requires that the estate is to be divided equally, you must do that.
The value of the estate is what must be divided, but there are different ways each asset can be distributed. Clearly, the “value” of a sentimental object is determined subjectively -- not by an appraiser, but by the beneficiary who wants to receive it. An auction for personal property is often a great solution, especially if you and your siblings can't readily agree upon value or upon who will receive a particular item.
Real estate is different. It is easier to determine the objective value of real property, usually by hiring a real estate appraiser or agent. What can be more difficult is figuring out how to divide real estate equally if that is necessary.
Sometimes, siblings agree to sell the property and divide the proceeds, or to keep the property and share its use. In other families, one sibling might want to keep the home, while the others have no interest in it. If there are sufficient other assets in the estate, there can then be a “non pro-rata distribution” -- an equal division of value. In such an arrangement, the sibling who wants the house gets it, and the others get cash or other assets, but everyone walks away with assets of the same value. Another option might be for the sibling who wants the house to simply buy out the other siblings' interests in it.
Your best resource is Julie Hall, The Estate Lady. Julie has written an extremely practical guide, called "The Boomer Burden: Dealing with Parents' Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff." The book is available on Amazon.com. With almost 20 years experience as a personal property appraiser, advisor, and estate liquidator, there is nothing her book doesn't answer, including equitable distribution.
She also has a blog that would be helpful to you, http://estatelady.wordpress.com. Also, she has some great articles on "stuff" and estates at http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Julie_Hall
She has always responded to my comments and questions, so try leaving her a message there at one of the two sites.
Hope that helps you solve the estate issues, while keeping family harmony!
I think that's a terrible way to do it. This is what we did - we each drew a number - one for each legal beneficiary, then each person started by choosing ONE item - their favorite, ie. the dining room suite, the living room furniture, one of the bedroom sets, etc. We continued until all of the larger furniture and the sentimental items were gone. Then we had an estate sale for the things no one especially wanted. If two people wanted the same item - they worked it out privately. If they could not agree - then they had to follow the agreed upon "number" system. It's easy and fair. Those who are legal beneficiaries in the will should NOT have to BUY the things that were legally left to them by their loved one. Nieces, nephews, etc. can have their choices of the leftovers or have legal beneficiary can ask for it for themselves and then give to anyone they choose. I think making a legal beneficiary pay for what was left to them is a horrible way to do it. My mother died of cancer and before her death she wanted to personally assign her nice jewelry to certain individuals- she had us take a photo of each individual piece - she then wrote the name of the person SHE wished to give it to on the photo and placed the photo in a sealed envelope - to be opened upon her death. This worked well for the most part except for one sister who thought she had a right to any and everything she wanted. But, even she had to follow the system.
We were so lucky - At least I thought we were so lucky!!
Mom had a Will which stated "all personal assets without beneificary/joint-holder shall be divided equally and if there is any despute, the Executor has final decision". It continued to state that "no Court, etc. shall request an inventory,etc."
The three siblings decided it was best to sell Mom's house immediately since none of us lived close - I was the closest at 850 miles one way! We were concerned about possible vandalism. However, besides having a Will and regardless how Mom stated what to do with her personal belongings, the fact that Waivers of Probate were signed - did NOT mean a thing in Court! The eldest sibling was furious after discovering what Mom did with her assets! The eldest was always so busy - "social calendar doesn't permit it" - when told "Mon is terminal and would like to see her Grandchildren".
The biggest problem was Mom's Executor passed away unexpectedly before closing Mom's Estate and a "Court Appointed Administrator" was assigned to "protect the estate" - (I believe that is the purpose of having such a person - but it wasn't what I encountered!).
NOTE: ALL WILLS SHOULD HAVE A "BACK-UP" EXECUTOR, EXECUTRIX!!!!!
The "Administrator" regardless of Mom's Will - wanted an inventory done - 2 years after Mom passed. The eldest had been to Mom's house twice in eight years and supplied such an elaberate, detailed, emblished inventory - down to the last penny in a covered dish on an end table! Unbelievable! And I was forced to respond! It never became an issue in court but it was done "behind the scenes" for the pure pleasure of causing problems - her "speciality"!
This is the same sibling who told Mom after we lost Dad -"why don't you have Salvation Army come pick up your junk, sell your house and you can buy a wing in our house and be the kids new nanny" - I cannot repeat what Mom replied - along with the hurt feelings from hearing such nonsense! The Executor and I helped our Mother move from the old house to her new house - in fact, Mom called a "family meeting which never included the eldest" and after being reassured that we had no problems with her wanting to move, Mom had us to pick her lot while she signed some papers. It wasn't long when Mom drives up, gets out of the car and asks us why we are sitting on the curb. "This is the lot we picked" - Mom laughed more - same lot she picked!
When asked if she wanted anything in the house, the eldest sibling's answer was always "no". Once she returned home, she called the Executor 3 days in a row requesting items then felt she should not be charged for the shipping of said items! The Eldest accused the "Administrator" of "working for the Defendants" and was able to even "bully" the Judge with filing Motions after Motions, etc. It is still the biggest headache - 5+ years later! The house proceeds were divided in thirds but there was no consideration regarding, clearing, cleaning, and getting the house ready for market - regardless of it being mentioned in the listing agreement!
The Eldest sibling kept saying "Family Lore" - she should be the one to decide if and who gets any of Mom's assets! She even challenged Mom's Will in Court and the Administrator charged Mom's estate the fee! I'm still working on getting this mess straightened out and believe me - no one in the legal system cares! Except for my new attorney who specializes in legal malpractice. Even the State Bar Association "sees no need to investigate" when proof provided that there are missing bank accounts (I have the copies of each account), the shipping receipts each have a "tracking #" if the Administrator would have done his "due diligence" and made a phone call! This is just the tip of the iceberg! Totally unbelievable how some people can complete "corrupt the system" to their liking!
If you have someone in your family connected with the legal system, or in my case, a part-time job in filing lawsuites -watch out!!!!!
Having gone through the painful, divisive process of dividing up my parents estate with my two brothers after my parents' deaths, I decided to do something entirely different. I invited my three children and their spouses to meet with me so they could hear what my plans were,voice any objections, and make any suggestions. I told them I was creating a revocable living trust that was entirely under my control as long as I was alive and capable. At such time as I was unable, or chose not to manage it,the executor would take over in my place and have full legal authority to manage all my affairs except for power of attorney over my health. I would also have a will for those things that were outside of the legal purview of a trust. I then asked them who would like to be executor. They agreed among themselves that it should be the older son but that my daughter, who was good at "kicking ass," as she put it," would handle the will and also make sure the executor kept on track. My younger son said he would be the POA for my living will . . . that would direct my health care at the end. As he said, "I may not entirely agree with everything you want or don't want, but if those are your wishes, I will fight to make sure they happen" (I wanted DNR and no attempts to prolong my life).
As for the details of the living trust, I said I trusted the three of them and believed they trusted one another enough to put it in simple terms: whatever they all agreed upon was fine for dividing things up, no matter the monetary values (not counting insurance and direct being direct beneficiaries). If any one of them should not agree, the process would stop, the items or items would be sold and the money split three ways. However, if there were particular things they wished (artwork, jewelry, books, etc.), tell me and I would earmark them specifically in the will. There were also some minor bequests for my grandchildren and my brother and cousin.
I figured I didn't need to run their lives from a distance. They could figure it out on their own. I love them, and know they love and trust one another, do figure out what works best for their needs and separate lifestyles, etc.
Well, I need to update it because I've moved to a different state and added a grandson to the mix since I wrote it and had it filed, but I still think it's a good way to go, and the lawyer agreed that it was legal and all.
After death is one time to be totally generous. Giving away "stuff" that is no longer needed is awesome......to family, friends, neices, nephews, neighbors, the local charity. Nothing colder than a sister-in-law (executor) who asks struggling college student grandkids (not named in will) to come buy some of their grandpas possessions.....sorry, I don't see this any other way other than greedy, self-serving, and down-right cold. No one better sell my stuff at a rummage. GIVE IT FREELY TO SOMEONE WHO APPRECIATES IT OR NEEDS IT PLEASE!!!!
Every story that I just read makes my heart rate go up, and is so upsetting to me because, I'm going through alot that was mentioned in the above stories. My father has been gone almost 12 years, and my mother passed a little over 6 months ago. She didn't leave a will and after her funeral " held at the church she attended only one block away", the family descended upon her house and started taking everything! I live next door to where momma lived "my parents owned two homes, the big house n the little house". I had no idea that they were having a meeting n taking her belongings as she was on her was to the funeral home to be buried!! Things are far from over. Our family home that we lived in for 50 years had two stories, plus an attic, basement, garage, and outside storage sheds. Three days after my mother was buried I went through that house from top to bottom alone, it took me 5 days and 3 of those days I worked straight through non stop without any sleep. My mother saved so many things, and kept folders of all the appliances, mowers, etc, and everything had the date of when it was purchased. I took my time when I would run across old photos, Valentines Day cards, birthday , Christmas, everything, I was crying so much being there alone having to do all of that by myself. Every time I would see a picture of momma or daddy I give it a kiss then cry some more. Since she saved so much stuff "but she was very organized", I had trouble throwing away a shoe string or paper clips! If something was broken or I new no one could/or would use it I'd cry n say I'm sorry momma! I guess my mothers death, being in the hospital room when she took her last breath n the machine buzz of that flat line sound that your loved is gone, and having to through her life/her personal papers is the hardest thing I've ever had to do! As for my three siblings, when this is over and all the papers are signed,"I didn't mention they are going to split any stocks/Ins/etc between the 3 of them, my older sister told my that", so when all is said and done, I'm charging my phone number, moving, and I hope they all drown on their next cruise ship!!! I can't stand them! If one of them was drowning and a spider was drowning also, I'd save the spider!!!
Hi, I wanted to let you know about something that can make the dividing process easier. After a long battle with cancer, my mother in law passed away in February of last year.
I was made the executor of her estate. The process of dividing up her belongings between her daughters was very difficult because of the sheer number of items to inventory and divide evenly, and fairly. I created an iPhone App to help with the process of dividing the possessions.
HeirSplit is an iPhone app that allows you to easily inventory and then split up the belongings of the deceased or it can be used to help aging parents decide "who should get what" to avoid family arguments after they are gone.
It is super easy to use, fast and most importantly, fair to all of the heirs. Please take a look at Heirsplit.com to get a better idea of how it works. The App can be found in the Apple App Store HeirSplit on iTunes
I have spent the better part of this day praying and seeking God for His will in the dissolution of our parent's Estate. I am one of six siblings; totally estranged from the others due to the circumstances surrounding our mother's death (2006). My dad passed in 1978, but left our mother in good shape. He died suddenly... never retired; so she lived off his pension in addition to her own school teacher's salary and a couple pieces of real estate.
My parents prepared a Will together, years before my dad passed. Unfortunately, in 2006 after my mom passed, the Will was no where to be found. It is believed that one of my brothers absconded with it during my mother's convalescence. He took it upon himself to take up residence in her home, even though he is married and has a home of his own. I won't go into all the details; but in 2008, after another sibling (who shared independent co-administration with me) created a lot of confusion, the Court canceled independent administration and appointed a Public Administrator to get the Estate settled. That guy has all but stolen the Estate from us, and the judge "rubber stamps" any and everything he says. Through Court petition, I vehemently opposed certain heirs residing in my mother's home because they refused to pay rent, utilities, etc. - which became a burden on the Estate. The Administrator and the Court ignored my pleas, and for six years, those heirs have lived off the Estate. Eventually, we were forced to sell the real estate at pennies on the dollar. Both were viable income properties that were owned free and clear. The Administrator has demonstrated total negligence and even lost one of the properties to the tax sale. He managed to redeem it back at a tremendous cost to the Estate. He caused the insurances to lapse, and God only knows how much has been paid out in penalties and interest for overdue payments. His lack of care and management caused the other property to be vandalized and stripped of just about everything; including all the fixtures, tubs, sinks, cabinetry, and more. Even the hot water tank was ripped out, leaving an open gas line. The Administrator asked me what should he do. This weekend, the heirs are to gather at a storage unit where (supposedly) all the possessions are being stored. It has been ordered by the Court, that items being sought by more than one heir, be purchased in cash - via an auctioning method. Any unclaimed items, will be tossed out like garbage. I know my parents would be beside themselves, if they could witness how these matters have been handled. Surely, our inability to get along would be disappointing; angering in some respects. I am determined to see that my parents' wills are carried out according to their desires. I think that is what gets lost in Estate matters. We forget what was important to the decedent; not the heirs. My mother told us I don't know how many times over the years - not to sell the real estate. My heart was crushed when the Court ordered us to give them up. My siblings could care less. All they care about is the money; even though we haven't seen a dime of the proceeds. Administrator has already petitioned the court for $75K for his fees. WOW!!! And the Court has approved the first $20K. He doesn't deserve the first $20K! I plan to take these matters to another level to seek restitution and expose this Administrator and Judge. I believe they are in cahoots and will have walked away with our inheritance. If you are in a situation where you know the Will is being disregarded... please do something about it. Don't let your loved one(s) down. God will honor your obedience. Thanks for letting me vent.
Wow. Since my hubby & I set up our estate planning yrs ago when his (not my) kids were teenagers, we've updated it every so often to keep up with the changing rules. Now that he has dementia & doesn't remember that we have an estate plan, I'm SO grateful we set it up! At first it was just the revocable living trust to take advantage of two exclusions instead of one, but 10 yrs ago we hired an estate planning attorney who brought up all the power of attorney/durable power of attorney/power of attorney for health care/trustee/successor trustee/executor etc. stuff & made us think about it--we STILL didn't face into the health care power of atty stuff until about 7 yrs ago, but I think we got it all done finally. We spent a lot of money with this guy, not for the ultimate preparation of documents, but for the PLANNING. I was able to slide into sole trusteeship and durable power of attorney with essentially no effort, and am able to manage our affairs just as we discussed when he was able to make decisions. I remember that he was very reluctant to cope with the nitty gritty 10 yrs ago, but 30 yrs ago when we started, the trust was his idea. I see so many posts from people who are going through stuff. I was a "lucky" heir--my dad died & left everything to my mom, my sister died & I was the only one left so I "got it all", such as it was. No sibling fights, because no sibling. DH has four kids, 1/4 goes ultimately to each of them. Personal property to me--we don't really have a lot of expensive or emotional stuff, so I'll probably just respond to any requests from the kids when the time comes, if he goes first. Anything they want to fight over I'll give away to charity One of the kids is into us for $7500 though, supposedly a loan, but no effort has been made to pay it back except promises at the time. But I have sufficient flexibility as trustee to get this evened out if necessary after DH goes, or even before he goes! The idea of their fighting among themselves makes me sick. But I can't prevent it, as some of the stories illustrate. I just have to do my best, with the grandkids in mind.
Having a Trust doesn't fix everything if there is a Sociopath that married into your family. Welcome to my world.... or should I say welcome to my nightmare. The Sociopath and the followers of the Sociopath feels that they should get everything. A Trust can and can not be a good thing. Good for avoiding taxes. My parents paid money to set everything up in a Trust, but now we will have to also pay to take this Trust to a Judge so that all assets can be disbursed and to close the Trust. The good thing.... evil family members have been found out for what they really are. Only wish that my parents could of seen this. I thought that I would of been disinherited since I pretty much stayed away, but turns out I was not. I have been so bitter about my parents that I didn't even care about receiving anything and I was more than willing to just throw it away to fen off the evil family members. It has taken me some time to start appreciating what I received from my parents and I can tell you right now that is only happening because my sibling has made me realize how our parents blessed all of us kids. My only satisfaction is that the evil family members remain unhappy with their life. The more they get the unhappier they are. I relate to several of you and feel for you. We didn't know we were dealing with a Sociopath until after my parents died. It's been a real eye opener. My fear is that when the Trust is over...it is actually just beginning. Already had to get the law involved more that once. Sociopaths think they are above the law. Good luck to everyone. Is there a blog for people like us?
I am trying to sell a different approach to my wife. I assume we have 10 heirs; 3 children and 7 grandchildren. I am advocating a 30%, 30% and 40% split of our revocable trust with 40% going to the child having 3 children. The intent is to ensure each grandchild gets their fair share asummng a good portion of the inheritance is passed on to them . We are also planning to give each grandchild 3% of our trust at age 25 thus bypassing their parents. The 30, 30, 40% split is a very tough sell. Even our estate lawyer has not seen this done. Just trying to think outside the box! Thoughts please.
It is difficult to anticipate everything that can go wrong. My parents had a trust, funded with more money than they ever thought they would see, thanks to the sale of the house they'd owned for 40 years. Their intent was for everything to be split between the children evenly, with a set amount to be divided between the grandchildren. They never anticipated that my father would outlive Mom by 10 years and require several years in senior housing followed by a few years in assisted living, which of course was only partially paid for from his current income and drew heavily from his savings.
Then, as so many have learned, there are often surprises when one sibling decides he or she is entitled to more. In our case one sibling lived much closer to Dad than the others. She manipulated him into "gifting" her a very large amount of money and then took advantage of his diminishing mental capacity to siphon off monthly amounts from his account. When he died there wasn't enough left to honor our parents' wish that their estate be split equally between us, in part because of the "gift" to Sister, but also because of the set amount designated for the grandchildren and because Sister had no desire to toss her share of insurance money into the pot to even things out. It could have been much worse. The rest of us didn't want the anguish of a drawn out legal battle so we tried to reason with her politely and then let it go. But the difference in inheritance is significant, particularly in view of the other liberties she took with Dad's accounts while he was alive.
The point here is that Mom and Dad clearly intended the estate to be evenly divided. All the insurance policies listed us all as beneficiaries, as did the IRA, and the trust stated we were all to inherit equally. Still it didn't work out. If the insurance policies and the IRA had gone into the trust, the sibling who was trustee (not Sister, fortunately) might have come close to evening things out in this case, but still, the cash in the accounts was rapidly being spent down by Dad's legitimate expenses and it wouldn't have been long before the money was gone. In that case the rest of us would have inherited nothing but the bills. I took a hard look at this and decided to review and amend my own trust.
First concern is who to make trustee. Articles often suggest naming only one child trustee, to avoid arguments, but what if you choose the wrong one? My parents had originally named Sister, and had named a different sibling when they amended the trust. It would have been bad news if Sister had been trustee -- not only because of her greed and questionable ethics, but because she is the least calm and most irrational in any situation. Maybe that's why they made the change. I decided to give my kids the opportunity to be co-trustees -- there are only two. It turns out there can be a lot of work involved so it makes sense to share the job, and gives the other more leeway to work out disputes without having to seek legal intervention. I don't anticipate trouble between them but my experience taught me to expect the unexpected.
Second, I decided to state as clearly as possible that I expected them to see that everything is equally divided, and I indicated that anything they receive outside of the trust counts as though it was in the trust. And everything that can go into the trust is going into the trust, or being left to the trust -- except things like my IRA which names them both as beneficiaries for reasons specific to the way Inherited IRA's work.
Third, I am leaving my grandchildren a percentage of my estate's value, rather than a set amount, to guarantee my kids get their share.
I'm still looking it over, but these look like changes that make sense right now.
I am executor of my parents' estate, which was placed in trust some 12 years ago, and my last parent died January 2015.
As her power of attorney (in all respects) and a trustee of the estate, I have held all in my hands.
I too have the unfortunate terrible sibling; an unemployed alcoholic who live in a motel, waiting for nothing else but "his" inheritance. He has accused me ad nauseum of stealing from the trust (never) and has actually threatened my life for keeping "his" money from him.
My solution: I have digitally documtened EVERY penny involved in my late mother's care, in the payment of estate settlement costs, etc. As well, I hired an attorney to handle the distribution of the trust. Totally unnecessary in reality, but necessary due to the sibling who will possibly attempt to sue.
Document, document, document. Being an executor and/or trustee is a most thankless job. Never again.
Good luck to all of us!
I want to know when my mother passed away my father got her share of the house in her estate they dit not mesion the hslf if the house is hers what k ow to fix
My Mother's will set my brother up as the Independent Executor and myself as the Independent Executrix should he not be able to execute her wishes. We are also both listed as beneficiaries on the will. The problem is my brother has been pressuring me to buy him out for his half of the large amount of acreage and house that we have inherited. I was recently layed off, tho actively seeking employment, and my husband has a heart condition and is unable to work. He thinks he is entitled to "the keys to the kingdom" because when both my parents went ill, he was there to0 take care of the yard, etc. He wasn't married, no kids, 1 hour drive away, no house, etc to take care of. I on the other hand, live 4 hours away, married, full time job, house and 2 kids. Needless to say, I wasn't able to be there as much as him. He has hired an attorney who I received a letter from, albeit non-threatening, which basically said work it out between yourselves. I need some advice please!!!!
This isn't an answer, but a quick summary and question. My sibling lives in the house my mom lived in (sib moved in 25 years ago for "six months" ... okay). Then sib's partner moved in. Will was unequivocal: 50/50 split for both sib and myself (I'm trying to be gender neutral here). Now sib won't move out, and asserts that the TAX assessment is the proper value for the house and land (about 33% of current market value). Any thoughts? It has been a nightmare. And, oh, yes, we're co-executors! I don't want the real property, just a fair settlement. I've hired an attorney, but it's starting to cost more than the value I might gain. What to do?
No matter how equal distribution is for heirs of an estate, there are always problems, I think. But with unequal distribution, I’d say we see a lot more problems and squabbling. But I have to tell you, the Caring.com expert is correct, and Waycross is, in my opinion, completely wrong. The will dictates the amount of actual money every heir gets. You don’t have heirs pick a number and put dibs, so to speak, on an item, to inherit a specific item – unless all that stuff is NOT for sale as with an estate sale or auction, and everyone agrees to receiving preferred personal property like artwork and antiques and individual furniture pieces and mementos… and everyone receives something different.
Frequently all that stuff is sold and the money is divided up equally, of course. But this is way too complicated when it comes to liquid assets. When it comes to cash, stocks, life insurance, etc. that type of individual preference idea goes all to pieces. Or if there is no will, distribution gets divided up equally, most likely, during probate, by the probate court. The law of intestate succession. If there is a will, or if there is no will the law requires that the estate is to be divided equally during probate, then distribution is accomplished that way. Simple. You gotta keep it simple.
Of course all this assumes there is no terrible inner family conflicts. If there is, then inheritance assets, not divided up equally can destroy family relationships so fast it’s not even funny.
In fact, these days sometimes we see a lot of heirs in-fighting during probate… and maybe one or two seem to be getting more inheritance money than the other heirs… and then I see heirs assembling their savings cash or credit card cash or using their income, if they make good money every month, to hire their own personal estate lawyer to protect their inheritance. Especially if heirs feel that the executor is in cahoots with the attorney to get more money than the rest of the heirs in the estate.
We see how tight it is for most people these days. And if an estate seems to not be distributing equally, it can really throw certain heirs into a panic, especially if their cash flow is very weak. If those heirs that are scared of getting short-changed don’t feel like waiting a year or two for probate to close, and they know the inheritance shares are not set up for equal distribution anyway – and if they don’t have good enough credit to borrow, and don’t have savings or a high income – Some of those heirs will look for a way to access a fair amount of cash to hire their own attorney.
A lot of those heirs will get advance probate cash from probate loans, inheritance loans, inheritance advance loans or a very large inheritance advance or estate loan, or even small inheritance loans or probate advances or super fast inheritance advance funding like a 72 hour inheritance advance or even one of the faster 48 hour inheritance loans if they can get approved for it, or just a standard probate loan or probate real estate loan, as soon as they can complete an inheritance advance or probate loan application from online probate loan or probate advance companies that provide loans on inheritance, regular inheritance advance funds, or perhaps very large probate cash advances or inheritance loans to both Canadian and American probate heirs or trust beneficiaries, from inheritance loans companies for example like www.heiradvance.com, www.inheritancenow.com or maybe www.inheritanceadvance.com... all the type of established probate loans or inheritance loans specialists that can move quickly, that have been providing probate loans, inheritance loans and trust fund inheritance advance assignments or probate cash advance assignments for years. All this advance cash activity shows me just how financially challenged middle class people are these days, and it’s especially stressful for them if their inheritance is disappointing and is to be less than other heirs in the group, siblings or whatever. Even to the point of getting an advance on inheritance just to have enough extra cash around, to be able to hire their own estate or probate lawyer, so they can protect their inheritance assets. Uneven or unequal distribution in my opinion causes a lot of this stress… and some fast cash as a little windfall, seems to be the only way to calm it down.
Definitely the instruction of the will must be followed, along with probate law for the estate in lieu of a will. Having said that, people are often confused that if there is a will or trust document that all will be clear. In fact, there is almost always the clause: "and divide everything else equally among the heirs".
As one estate attorney was quoted in the NY Times article: "picture kids coming down the stairs at Christmas to find many presents, big and small with no name tags!" There is a decent chance things may not go all that well.... especially if one or two of the kids can't get there Christmas morning.
We developed an online software / system that makes it easy to list, categorize, value, have photos associated, etc. for all of the personal property of an estate, and most importantly share it equally with all parties. One of the main areas of contention talked about in family conflicts around these things, is lack of transparency. FairSplit provides that with equal access for all online.
The first "round" is asset review, where everyone can see the items, see the values put on them and make sure nothing is missing they think should be there. They are asked to indicate if they have any personal interest in each item with check-boxes. If even one person has interest it moves to Divide. All items having no interest from the heirs can move to Sell or Donate. This allows the executor to get things moving on the estate sale or donation pick ups.
For dividing, the Emotional Value round comes next, giving each heir a fixed number of Emotional Points with which to bid. They can put all one one items or spread across several. This is intended to ensure that all parties have an equal chance, but that whoever truly wanted it most gets it. This round usually gets the highly charged items out of the way.
The next round is the Selection Order round, having the heirs listing the items in their order of preference. Then the software allocates according to a "snake" awarding formula 1,2,3,4, then 4,3,21, etc., etc. Most equate this to drawing straws and taking turns. The advantage is everyone doesn't have to fly in or meet in person, which can create it's own emotional charge and physical scheduling challenges.
Each heir's total value assigned is tracked and reports can be printed or exported to do value equalization or however the family decides or the will instructs. The main thing is transparency and fair path to equal distribution of assets. Hope this helps.
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