How to Divvy Up Your Stuff

What’s the best, conflict-free way to divvy up my personal possessions amongst my kids after I’m gone? I have jewelry, art, family heirlooms, antique furniture and five grown kids that don’t always see eye-to-eye. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Divvying up personal possessions amongst adult children or other loved ones is a task that many parents dread. Deciding who should get what without showing favoritism, hurting someone’s feelings or causing a feud can be difficult even for close-knit families who enter the process with the best of intentions. Here are some tips to consider that can help you divide your possessions with minimal conflict. Problem Areas For starters, you need to be aware that it’s usually the small, simple items of little monetary value that cause the most conflicts. This is because the value we attach to small personal possessions is usually sentimental or emotional and because the simple items are the items that most families fail to talk about. Family battles can also escalate over whether items are being divided fairly by their monetary value. So for items of higher value like your jewelry, antiques and art, consider getting an appraisal to assure fair distribution. To locate an appraiser, visit www.appraisers.org. Ways to Divvy The best solution for passing along your personal possessions is for you to go through your house with your kids or (other heirs) either separately or all at once Open up cabinets, drawers and closets and go through boxes in the attic to find out which items they would like to inherit and why. They may have some emotional attachment to something you’re not aware of. If more than one child wants the same thing, you will have the ultimate say. Then you need to sit down and make a list of who gets what on paper. Sing, date and reference the paper in your will. You can revise it anytime you want. You may also want to consider writing an additional letter or creating an audio tape, CD or DVD that further explains your intentions. Your can also specify a strategy for divvying up the rest of your property. Some fair and reasonable options include: Take Turns Choosing: Use a round-robin process where family members take turns picking out items they would like to have. If who goes first becomes and issue, they can always flip a coin for draw straws. Also, to help simplify things, break down the dividing process room by room, versus tackling the entire house. Have a Family Auction: Give each person involved the same amount of “play money” or use “virtual points” to bid on the items they want. This can be done online at www.eDivvyup.com, a website for families and estate executors that provides a fair and easy way to distribute personal property. For more ideas, see “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?” A resource created by the University of Minnesota Extension Service, It offers a detailed workbook or interactive CD for $12.50 and a DVD for $30. If gives pointers to help families discuss property distribution and lists important factors to keep in mind that can help avoid conflict. You can order a copy online at www.yellowpieplate.comumn.edu or by calling 1-800-876-8636. It’s also very important that you discuss your plans in advance with your kids, so they can know what to expect. Jim Miller, author of the “Savvy Senior” Book shared this article with the United Methodist Foundation, March 2013. ABOUT THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ELDER LAW ATTORNEYS Established in 1987, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) was formed to enhance the quality of legal services available to the elderly and people with special needs in the United States. Members of NAELA are attorneys who have demonstrated experience and training in working with the legal problems of aging Americans and disabled individuals. http://www.naela.org. ABOUT HARWELL & PLANT, ATTORNEYS. Established in 1974, Harwell & Plant has a long history of service to client and community. Our attorneys and professional staff offer a wide range of legal services to citizens and businesses throughout southern Middle Tennessee. Paul Plant has been a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorney’s since 2003. Through NAELA, Mr. Plant and other Elder Law Attorney’s exchange ideas and other information important to senior citizens. His active involvement in NAELA has offered Mr. Plant quality assistance in his representation of the elderly and those with special needs. Contact us at 762-7528 in Lawrenceburg, HARWELL & PLANT, 225 Mahr Avenue, Lawrenceburg, TN 38464 pplant@harwellplant.com, www.harwellplant.com

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