Little Things Matter When Dividing Assets

Close up of female accountant or banker making calculationsPeople usually spend lots of time drawing up estate plans that spell out how they want to divide their major assets — cash, homes and stocks — among their children and grandchildren and others.

But they rarely spend any time thinking about the smaller items, which, in many cases, may have lots of sentimental value.

A story in the New York Times says it is these items that usually cause problems in a family.

Lawyers can tell you how to divide your money, but they really don’t have a clue as to who should get that old tea service or other sentimental items.

A book by Marlene Strum of the University of Minnesota, called “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?,” offers principles to help divide this sort of stuff without tearing the family apart.

The principles include obvious things like recognizing that items have different meanings to different people and that nobody in the family really knows the best way to do it.

But the core of her program is the concept of fairness and realizing that conflict will occur and that it can be managed.

She suggests drawing lots or going by birth order or some other process that can be followed.

To do otherwise would be like wrapping all these presents under the tree at Christmas and having no name tags on them — it would be chaos.

Another strategy is also simple: ask people what they want.

If you have questions about estate planning, feel free to contact us for a consultation at (626) 696-3145.

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