When someone beloved by all the family passes away, the mementos they leave behind can become very important to their heirs. The estate’s larger assets are often divided up fairly evenly among the heirs or handled quickly enough.

Not so, the family heirlooms. Family heirlooms can range from costly items of jewelry and valuable antiques to simple, sentimental items like “Dad’s tools” or “Mom’s ornament collection.” The debate over who gets to claim what can actually tear families apart.

So, what can you do to minimize the conflict? Unless your loved one made some careful notations in their final papers, you have to come up with a way to handle the issue on your own. Here are some options:

  1. Put aside any items of significant worth for special handling. It’s only fair that valuable items be appraised. That way, everyone knows what they are trading off as they make decisions.
  2. Name what you want. The vast majority of personal items may be easy to divide. What you find emotionally significant and will treasure may not resonate with your sibling. You can easily divide up items that aren’t desired by more than one person.
  3. Use a system to divide the rest. Commonly, family members will take turns, each choosing an heirloom item, one at a time, until everything is taken.
  4. Decide how to handle the big items. If “taking turns” doesn’t work for the special items that you set aside and valued, you can always agree to sell them at auction and divide the value. Or, the person who wants something can offer to pay its value to the estate for division.

Estate issues can be complicated by the emotions surrounding the loss of a loved one. If you need help managing an estate, find out more about your options today.