It’s Only “Stuff!”
I’m not worried about my personal “stuff.” I don’t really have that much, plus my kids get along fine anyway….do you know anyone who has said this? Do you know any family members who have ended up arguing, or not speaking to each other after dividing “stuff?”
Studies show that personal property after the death of a loved one is an issue that impacts individuals regardless of their financial worth, heritage or cultural background. Emotions and family relationships impact decision making. Inheritance decisions can enhance or destroy family continuity.
When it comes to personal assets, being “fair” is very complex, because personal belongings have different value and meaning to each individual. It is impossible to divide items equally, and it is difficult to measure worth or value of many items.
Does the first born child feel “entitled” to have first choice of the “stuff?” Do the daughters believe they should have priority over sons because personal property many times consists of household items? What about the in-laws? the step-children? What about the siblings of the deceased? What about more distant relatives or friends who were perhaps extremely close to the deceased? What about the Christmas ornament that each of the three children want?
Should the division be made immediately after the death? Should there be time to discuss it? What is the family plan for division of property? Are there any estate planning documents in place that dictate what will happen and how distribution of property is to be made?
These are all very real questions, and the best answer is to have a plan in place before it is needed. Having a family meeting, or having the person (usually a parent) make a plan that follows their wishes and then inform each child or potential heir about that plan. Writing is preferable because that eliminates the “he said / she said” arguments. Perhaps an objective third party should be appointed or should act as mediator.
Regardless of the number of items, no matter how small, or no matter the monetary value, every family should have a plan and family members should be informed of the plan before distribution is to be made.
If your family doesn’t have a plan, and needs ideas on how to get started, call us today to begin that process. Decide what is most important to you and take action today – the “stuff” or the family relationships.