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Few things have the potential to be as contentious among siblings as dividing their parents estate.  In an ideal world, siblings would come together, work through their disagreements amicably, and leave the process stronger as a unit and with some treasured items to last their lifetime.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  Grief can cloud judgment and stress levels are often high.  Long-simmering feuds can erupt and cause lasting damage to a loving relationship.  That’s not the legacy you want to leave for your family.

To mitigate this risk, make it clear in advance how you’d like your property distributed.  Use the Personal Property Disposition List judiciously and supplement with a backup plan for the remainder.  Over the next few weeks we’ll discuss some popular examples of systems, and provide an analysis of each one.

Option 1: your Executor decides.  The good ole fashioned punt.  Leave it to your Executor to decide.  Under the language of many Wills, the Executor groups items into two categories: Category 1 contains items he thinks your children would want, either because of their value or sentimental appeal.  These items are grouped into roughly equal portions and given directly to your children.  Category 2 consists of all of the rest of your items.  This could be electronics, books, clothing, furniture – anything your Executor thinks has value but wouldn’t necessarily need to be kept for your beneficiaries.  Category 2 is sold and the proceeds split among your children.

There is an intuitive appeal to this option: it’s quick, it’s clean, it’s efficient.  The Executor (with our without the beneficiaries’ input) groups property into roughly equal shares and decides who gets what.  Then sells the rest and apportions the proceeds.  When working properly, this option is like a functioning monarchy: power is centralized and the wishes of beneficiaries are respected.  It has potential to be the best and most efficient, solution of the various options.

The flipside is that when functioning poorly, it’s like a dictatorship.  And this risk is especially apparent if your Executor is also a beneficiary.  Even if the Executor does his best to distribute property fairly, tension may arise from beneficiaries who aren’t happy with the allotment or simply want a say in how belongings are divided.  It’s not unreasonable to want to be part of the process.

Consider this option if your beneficiaries are minors and you have a non-partial Executor willing to take the time to divide your property as fairly as possible.  Be wary of nominating an Executor who is also a beneficiary.  This system also works better when there are a relatively few number of beneficiaries; dividing property evenly among eleven parties is no easy task, especially when an estate includes a small number of high value items.

For help in drafting a Will that distributes your property according to your wishes, contact Asurest to set up an appointment now.

Next week . . . the auction.

 

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This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.

Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.