Many parents agonize over which household items (e.g., collections, antiques, family heirlooms, jewelry, etc.) they should leave to certain of their children when the parents pass away. They spend hours trying to decide what would be an equal distribution of such items.
Here are some important concepts to remember:
1. “Fair” does not necessarily mean “equal”. Some children may be more deserving of certain items, in light of their continuing care and devotion to the parents. Although we parents are seized with the age-old proposition that we must treat our children equally, nowhere in the Old or New Testaments does it say that. I’ve looked, and it’s not there. Do your best to be fair, not equal.
2. Those items may mean more to the parents than they ever will to the children. How do you know? Ask them! Have a frank discussion with your children which might begin with, “When we’re gone, are there any items from our home which would mean a great deal to
you?” You might just be surprised with the responses you get.
3. A possible solution to the dilemma is to have the children draw straws at the appropriate time and then choose one item of your belongings, rotating the selection process until no items are left or until no one wants any more of the items. After that selection process,
they might just agree to swap some items. In any event, no one should feel that they were treated unfairly with such a system. It is, however, to define what an “item” is. Does an item mean a dining room suite or just one piece of that furniture? This should all be spelled out in your last
will or trust.
Resolving such matters now can reduce or eliminate friction among family members.