26 Oct Executor Creates Process for Distributing Mother’s Assets
Clients who prepare their Living Trusts identify their assets and how they will be distributed among their heirs when they die. Assets include the obvious things such as real property, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies and other financial resources, but they also include other high-ticket items such as cars, jewelry, artwork, antiques, valuable collections, etc. Many people carefully allocate the large items but fail to identify how the smaller items will be distributed among their surviving family members. These are often items that may not have great financial value but are rich in sentiment, and their distribution can become highly contentious.
An Oakland client distributes mother’s assets
An Oakland client, the executor for his mother’s estate, shared this story of how he successfully distributed his mother’s assets among his siblings. His mother had created a Living Trust and had divided her estate equally among her three children. But she had not identified how the many small, sentimental items were to be divided among her three children. His brother and his wife were aggressive and greedy, and he wanted to avoid their taking the most valuable items, leaving his sister and him with the leftovers. He wanted to prevent potentially hard feelings and conflict, making sure that each of them was the recipient of household items and mementoes that would comfort them and keep their mother’s memory alive.
He knew, for instance, that his sister loved a beautiful Wedgewood plate that his mother always used for their birthday cakes, and she had a lovely gold bracelet that he would like to give his daughter. A wicker rocker in her study was where his mother used to sit and read, and he would love to have that chair in his own study. None of these things was worth a lot of money, but each was rich in memories.
As executor, he devised a plan that included only the three siblings, not their spouses
- Each would create and prioritize a written list of the items he/she wanted from their mother’s belongings, without saying one word to each other.
- They would flip a coin to see who would choose first.
- The sibling who won the coin toss would select the first item, segregating it physically into a pile.
- The person who came second would do the same, then the third, continuing until all of their mother’s belongings were taken.
- If somebody’s choice was already taken, they would take the next item on their list, if that item was still available.
- After all items were chosen, conversation was allowed and trading could begin. “You really wanted that item bracelet, and I really wanted that ring; would you be willing to trade?” Etc.
Siblings satisfied with the process
There was only one case where two siblings really wanted one item and a settlement/deal couldn’t be reached. Our client’s sister wanted something that he had chosen, but he wasn’t willing to part with it–their mother’s favorite pasta bowl that she had bought in Italy. There was no dispute, no loud discussion, and everyone was very satisfied with the process and the results—including his brother.