The challenge of dividing belongings (especially valuables) is that whether they’re worth more in cash, memories or both, many items are often wanted by more than one person.
In an ideal world, a parent already gave items to those they wanted to have them or made a list of items going to specific people, along with an explanation of why they made the choices they did. But that doesn’t usually happen. What’s more common is when foggy elderly people verbally promise one item to more than one person, resulting in conflict between heirs, sooner or later.
If you’re dealing with a living estate and want to eliminate future conflicts, you may be tempted to ask your parent to assign items to their heirs now and explain their choices. But that might be too much pressure for them, or they may no longer be mentally capable of doing so.
Whether it’s a living or inherited estate, when dividing your parent’s belongings, you’ll need to at least try to prevent fights among heirs. While it’s not always possible to be perfectly fair, everyone should try to keep everything above board and to aim for fairness.
Here are 14 methods for dividing estates that have worked for other families. Choose whichever ones fit your situation best:
You Bought It, You Take It Back
Let everyone take back anything they gave to your parent. This includes birthday, anniversary and holiday gifts, plus anything they made for them. If they don’t want it back, it becomes part of the estate that others may want, or it can later be sold.
Heirs take turns choosing one item each until everyone has at least a few things they want. Order of choice can be based on birth order, by drawing straws or by throwing dice. This works especially well if the estate contains items that have more sentimental value than monetary value.
Take a Chance
Each time two or more heirs want an item, settle it by drawing cards (high card wins) or by throwing dice (highest total wins).
(Discover 11 more methods in my book, How to Clean Out Your Parents’ House (Without Filling Up Your Own), just 99 cents right now.)