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How to divide family heirlooms (fairly) amongst your heirs

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2024 | estate planning | 0 comments

It’s the small things that count, and that’s never more true when it comes time to divide up someone’s precious mementos and family heirlooms.

Regardless of their intrinsic worth, small things can take on gargantuan importance and create massive family rifts after someone’s death. Whether it’s grandma’s ring, dad’s watch or that carnival glass cake plate that was used every birthday for years, family heirlooms can become a huge source of contention in your estate.

So, how do you divide up things that can be divided? Here are some ideas:

Give some things away today

There’s a certain joy in knowing that the things you treasure the most will go on to be treasured by others, and have a place in their future. If one of your adult children and another loved one expresses a fondness for a particular item that has started to merely gather dust, consider gifting it to them while you’re still alive. That circumvents the entire probate process and any potential question about who you intended to receive the items.

Ask your heirs what they really want

This is the simplest, most straightforward approach, and it lets everybody have a say. What you think might be important to all of your heirs could only be important to one – and things you never realized were important at all may be claimed. Once you know what everybody actually wants, you can decide how to navigate any potential areas of dispute. If two of your children want your wedding set, for example, consider having the stones removed and a pendant made for each. 

Let them take turns

If multiple heirs all want the same items, make a list – and direct them to take turns claiming things, one item at a time. That will force your heirs to prioritize what they want the most and make sure that everybody gets something that they want as a keepsake.

Good estate planning is as much about keeping the family peace as it is anything else – and you can help make that happen by thinking ahead.