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Personal Property Disputes

Leaving Your Personal Property to Family can be Problematic

This originally aired on the Catholic Faith Network’s show CFN Live:

What do families fight over?

Tangible personal property describes personal property that can be felt or touched and can be physically relocated. Way too often families will fight over tangible personal property such as a favorite ceramic dish or inexpensive oil painting.

Tangible Personal Property

For example: household furnishings, appliances and fixtures, works of art, motor vehicles, pictures, collectibles, personal wearing apparel and jewelry, books, sporting goods, and hobby paraphernalia.

How should one leave personal property under a Will?

Let’s start with a story:

Mary and Joe have three children: (1) Me- Me-Me, (2) Let’s Get Along, and (3) I Don’t Care.

Joe and Mary leave a Will that names their three children as Executors and all three children are to inherit their personal property equally.

Now, let’s discuss how this is going to work out:

  • How will decisions be made as to how to distribute these personal items?
  • How will the items of personal property be valued?
  • How will they take into account the sentimental value an item of personal property may have for one or more of the children?
  • How will they agree on the division of their parents’ personal property?

The starting point is to have clear instructions in your Will as to whom you want your personal property to pass to and what the process will be for dividing the personal property.

How can you avoid a family dispute?

Here are some suggestions that can make a difference on avoiding family disputes:

Strategies for Avoiding Disputes

  1. Write a Letter of Instructions
  2. Tag Items
  3. Give Gifts During Lifetime
  4. Liquidate Assets
  5. Give clear instructions in your Will
    1. Take Turns
    2. Use a Lottery
  6. Bring a Mediator in
  7. Defer to an independent Fiduciary

How can children divide their parents’ personal property?

First, follow the Will provisions. If not clear, I suggest having a process. Create ground rules that they all agree to follow.  Put the rules in writing and have them sign off on the approach. Fairness and communication are key to a smooth division of the property.

How do you deal with a greedy family member?

I suggest approaching all situations with empathy and patience. It is important to communicate and listen. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the other family members.

Lastly, consider bringing in an unbiased party. Sometimes, it is worth taking some time apart instead of putting pressure on everyone.

What do you say to the Executor on how to handle inheritance disputes?

It can be very challenging. You are dealing with family members that each have their own story to tell.

Strategies for Resolving Disputes

Here are some strategies:

  1. Open Communication
  2. Understand the Estate Plan and Legal Obligations.
  3. Bring in the Professional for Guidance.
  4. Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods.
  5. Focus on the Best Interest of the Estate and the Family.
  6. Explore Settlement Options.

What resources are available to avoid family disputes?

CLICK HERE for the complimentary Russo Law Group “Trust and Estate Administration Guide”.

We hope you found this article helpful. Contact our office today at 1 (800) 680-1717 and schedule an appointment to discuss what makes sense for you and your loved ones.

Russo Law Group, P.C.
100 Quentin Roosevelt Blvd., Suite 102
Garden City, NY 11530

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