need advise on personal items from estate

mamerjjMay 14, 2008

short history, 4 sisters, all made executure of their mothers estate. They can not agree how to devide all the personal items in the home. She did not want her items sold in an auction or a yard sale. one wants to have an auction, another wants to put numbers on everything and draw, another wants to divide things if their is something that 2 people want they will have to draw for it. This whole issue is tearing the family apart. What happens if an agreement can't be met. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Can one have it fixed so no one gets anything if an agreement can't be met,I am asking cause I am fearful one of them would do this. Yes, this is my sisters and my mother always said this would never happen with her daughters. I love some of my mothers things but don't think it is worth the lose of my family.

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mamerjj, Sorry about the loss of your mom. You are so right, it's not worth losing your family over this...there's enough stress when one loses a parent. Here's what we did in the same circumstance.

There are 3 of us. Our dad had already passed so when our mom passed on, the 3 of us made the following agreement - could you do the same with another close relative added in so that you'll have an odd number of people....we agreed that anything that required a vote would go whichever way the simply majority ruled (2 vs 1 for us).

Once we had that rule, the majority decided that we would draw numbers out of a hat (1,2,3). Each of us got a pack of colored dot stickers - we each had our own color. Then #1 would sticker the item that they wanted, #2 would do the same, then #3. We kept going through things until we got to a point where someone didn't want anything further. The round robin stopped then. Pretty much by then, all things of value (not necessarily monetary value) had been claimed. We then made our donations - for example, the kitchen table was donated to the local library, books donated to library, etc etc. Finally, we invited other close relatives and friends to come over and select things if they wanted to. And what was left was either trashed or given to charity.

The one thing that made this, and other decisions, work out for us was the rule about having a simple majority decide all questions. Hope this is something to consider and that you and your sisters can work this out.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 4:01PM
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Some families do this -- they issue each family member (that would be you and your sisters) a certain amount of bidding "money" in the form of paper chits. Then they auction off the disputed items, one by one, with the bidders being limited to the family members involved. The one who bids highest on each item gets to keep it, but must pay what she bid for it with her "money."

Whoever wins the early items will have less to bid on the later items. If there's a particular item one bidder really wants, she can hold off on bidding until that item comes up.

To make this work right, all the bidders should know in advance what order the items will be bid on.

The net result is that each sister gets a fair share because all have equal amounts of 'money" to spend. And each is also much more likely to wind up with the items she really, really wants than if you just held a blind drawing.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 4:04PM
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I always told my husband we must order everything sold and the money divided to avoid this kind of problem. My sisters and I don't want any thing of mom's, we have our own homes and her things would not fit in. We agreed if we wanted something for one of our children we would pay 3/4 ths of the sale price. I also suggested we sell the furniture with an ad in the paper by appointment only. The small stuff would be taken to one of our homes for a sale. My mom would hate her neighbors going through her stuff like a bunch of scavengers.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 7:57PM
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I had an aunt in Edinburgh Scotland who had arranged with her lawyer to have her house and all of its contents sold on her passing. My aunt fell in the street and hurt her hip and while in the hospital was in no shape to communicate. She was also house rich and cash poor.
Her lawyer chose to interpret her instructions as orders to sell everything in order that her bills could be paid, which he did before I could get over to Scotland.
The things that we missed the most, such as address book, letters, music, photographs and home preserves, had little cash value.
By the way my aunt made a good recovery and lived in a good nursing home until age 93.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 12:50AM
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Can one have it fixed so no one gets anything if an agreement can't be met

Someone could tie the process up in knots or make everyone buy the items they want from the estate.

It seems to me that all four of you should sit down at a table or do a conference call and hash it out. If that doesn't work, then agree to go to a mediator (like a divorce mediator) and see if she or he can bring you to agreement.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 7:55AM
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I want to thank you for your replies. We have done the sitting down at the table thing and someone always gets mad and ends up leaving. At the present time one of the girls says she is walking away and doesn't want anything she has enough in her home already. I am just disappointed cause Mom always thought we would have such a fun time going thur her things and reliving memories. We have always had our differences thur the years but have been closer than a lot of families and I have always been so proud of that. Thanks again for you ideas.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 10:52AM
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I sat down with my SIL's to divide my mothers personal and household items. Some things were set aside in the beginning because we knew who she wanted to have them. Then we took turns selecting items that we wanted from remainder.
It worked out well for the most part. For example, we all have some of her ornaments and it's fun to go to each others houses at Christmas and see the ornaments, and other furnishings.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 10:59AM
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At the present time one of the girls says she is walking away and doesn't want anything she has enough in her home already.

Is this a problem? It would seem to me that this would remove one set of demands, and perhaps make it easier.

but it sounds as though this is part of your dissatisfaction, and part of the tension? That you feel she *should* be more involved, and want these things? Or are you worried that she is walking away from the stuff because of bad feelings generated by the discussion?

I second the idea that you should all agree to find a mediator--a professional would be good, or someone who doesn't know you and never knew your family. If you can't find a professional mediator, then maybe a marriage counselor, or therapist, or even a particularly clear-eyed member of the clergy (I can think of some I'd recommend, and some I wouldn't, though; and again, I think you'd be best off w/ someone who wouldn't even POSSIBLY thing they knew your mom, or wouldn't have their own agenda).

This completely disinterested party might be able help you all let go of some of the emotional meanings that have been assigned to things.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 11:48AM
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I never realized one could name up to four executors - have always thought in terms of a primary and alternate. Learn something new every day.

Anecdotal, but I had a friend with two sisters. My friend lived in the neighborhood of the deceased parents and the sisters lived across the country in California. Early on things of value were divided. Sale of the house, which was kept open with all utilities and cable tv, etc. so the sisters had comfort when they came East, was put off. The subsequent distribution and close out of the estate and remaining material possessions (much of it lumber from the father's basement workshop, old and broken down furniture, piles of books and magazines thought to possibly contain money between the pages, etc) dragged on for three years as the California sisters needed time to grieve. A lawyer was finally hired in desperation and set a time limit to go through things and put the house on the market. The sisters couldn't go through things or let go within the timeframe - so the largest U-Haul available was packed up with all the junk, lumber, books and magazines and a hired driver took it all to California. All expenses to be deducted from the California portion of the housesale. Extreme, but stuff happens in families.

As someone put it in another thread - you're being dictated to from the grave. Your mother, believing you'd all do the right thing, made no specific bequests on who should get what. Has anyone made a complete inventory of the possessions; has anyone made specific requests for something; is it the more valuable items - jewelry, maybe that makes one or more fear they'll be shortchanged? Does someone have a greater need for something?

Give everyone two hours to go through the house alone and make a list of wants. If more than one wants something, work out a lottery or drawing. If you're still at an impasse among yourselves, you would probably do well to hire someone who has absolutely no vested interest in anything other than getting the matter settled. A lawyer could set reasonable timeframes possibly even exclusions for anyone refusing to participate in good faith, etc.

I wish you well, the death of a parent is hard enough without having any aftermath that tears you apart.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 7:09PM
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I'm not an attorney, but I am an executor of a very messy estate.

Have you filed the will with the probate court? I don't know where you live, but in my experience the will needs to be filed with the probate court and there are rules and laws governing the settling of an estate.

In most cases the executors will need an attorney who handles estates to represent the them before the court. Depending on the value of the estate, the executors will have to file a bond with the court etc. Also, the court will enforce what is written in the will. Technically, if your mother did not make her desires known in her last will and testament, they do not have to be followed according to the law.

I know how messy things can get and am amazed at how people act when it involves the settling of an estate. In the long run, your relationship with your siblings will be the only thing left when all the inheritance is spent or disposed of..

Also take this opportunity to make sure that you have a will instructing exactly what you want done. Meet with an attorney and make sure the will does exactly what you want. Don't just write it on your own - depending on the estate laws in your state, what you think the will directs to be done could have some very negative unintended consequences!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 10:50AM
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Actually, KitchenRedo--your scenario isn't always the case. I'm in the midst of settling my mom's estate. In my state, you just have to file the will with the probate office, then, it's up to the executor to follow the will's instructions. While I did consult my attorney, it was for my peace of mind--he didn't do a thing but tell me I had everything covered. There was no court appearance at all (I only had to go to the county store at the mall to file the will). The will can specify that the executor not be required to file a bond. All in all, I've found it's a very simple procedure. One thing you didn't mention, though--is that the executor/executrix has to file for a federal tax ID #. Now that, I imagine--being a federal requirement--is probably true across the board.

As to the question posed by the original poster. Seems to mme, part of the problem is the appointing of 4 executrixes. That's just unweildy, and excessive, IMO. I don't know how you could possibly 'fix' that, if it's how your mom left her will, but I can certainly see that there's probably no real way for you to make effective decisions with 4 cooks stirring the broth. There are 4 of us siblings, too, but mom left me (oldest) as executrix. I made sure I spoke with each of my siblings privately and found out what they wanted most to remember mom--and I made sure the most important things were divided fairly. Actually, all were very cooperative, and really tried to help me, and not be grabby.

If your mother didn't want her things auctioned or sold, you really need to honor her wishes. As to how you're going to work out the rest, not knowing you personally, it's hard to really offer too much in the way of advice.

I will just add this. I hope you do find a way to work through this. One of the really helpful things, after mom died, was while it was rough having to clear out her apt. in just a couple of weeks, it was so very comforting to get together, and share our memories of mom, as we shared her precious possessions. Precious because of the memories, not because of their monetary value. We did that last Dec. But just this past weekend, one of my nieces came by to go through a few of the things I'd been saving for her--she'd been away at college when we were handling stuff at the apt. And that was another wonderful walk down memory lane. Your mom is right--all those little things she left behind are ribbons tied to memories of her life and love. If at all possible, find a way to share that wonderful legacy. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 10:42PM
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