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An Executor Avoids A Family Fight

Some years ago, when my mother passed away without designating who should get what possession of hers. As executor of her estate, I was faced with the problem of dividing up her stuff, among myself, a grasping, egotistical and selfish rich professional (brother), and a sister who had nothing.

On entering my mother’s place, together, my brother opined as to how he would take this and that, and his wife (also of the same ilk) wanted these and those.

What to do?  A flash of inspiration provided the answer. I first informed him that his wife was not included in our mother’s will, and that we would ‘divide the spoils’ as follows:

(1) We would each make a written list of what we wanted, in order of preference, of all of mother’s belongings, without saying one word to each other.

(2) Then, we would flip a coin to see who was to choose first.

(3) Then, the one who won the coin toss would select her first item, segregating it physically.

(4) The person who came second would do likewise, then the third, going round and round till all had a ‘pile’ of their choices.

(5) If somebody’s choice was already taken, then they would take the next item on their list, if that item was still available.

(My brother had to include his wife’s desired objects as part of his list.)

Only after all items were chosen, was conversation allowed, and horse trading began. Sample: “You really wanted that item X, and I really wanted item Y, as they were high on our lists. But you got Y and I got X. Would you like to trade?”

Only in one case was there an item wanted where a settlement/deal could not be reached.

My sister wanted something I had chosen, but I was not willing to part with it.

There was no dispute, no loud discussion, and we were all very satisfied both with the process and the results.

I hope this is clear. It proved to be a wonderful way to divide things up, with no altercations, no bruised feelings or egos, and we completed the process feeling good!

I recommend this in any case where there are two or more heirs to household goods/treasures/jewelry but heirs have not been designated in the will.


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