It is a fact: in most family inheritance disputes, the only people who end up financially benefiting are the lawyers involved. But it doesn’t have to be that way! By organizing, documenting, and talking about your wishes early and often, you can solve family battles before they even begin.
want to learn the 5 useful secrets for solving family inheritance disputes? read on...
organize and document your wishes
Long before it is necessary, start organizing and documenting your wishes. This means putting your wishes for “who gets what” in writing, preferable a legally binding will. Hire a lawyer to prepare the will, or create one yourself online at a reputable online company (such as LegalZoom).
For example, if the eldest son is to inherit the family wedding ring so that he can keep it in the family, document it. Without express written decisions made in advance, family disputes can rise up. Tell your heirs your wishes so there are no unpleasant surprises after you’re gone.
honor written wishes
When a family member has passed away, the will is the legal document that has primary precedence is dividing up the remaining personal belongings, according to the law. It doesn’t matter if Grandma always told everyone that Billy should get the art collection: if it’s not in writing, it doesn’t legally count.
If the deceased prepared an informal list of their wishes (or marked items with labels, as some people do) AND the heirs can agree to it, try to honor those wishes. The only people who financially benefit from estate battles are the lawyers involved.
Sometimes You Can’t Do it on Your Own: When it’s Time to Throw in the Towel and Hire an Estate Clearing Professional to Help you Finish the Job
Nobody Wants the Family Heirlooms: What to Do When it Happens to You
with free Declutter +Downsize Family Heirlooms Game Plan
Mom, We Have to Talk: 5 Ways to Discuss Downsizing with your Aging Parents
with printable Discussion Cheat Sheet
Don't remove anything from the house ahead of time
If an ailing, aging parent remains in the home and starts “giving away” valuables or cash, the right thing to do is share that information with all the heirs. Often times the adult child who is the perceived “favorite” benefits from this: this is a sure way to cause family disputes in the future. Take the high road and disclose to other heirs what has already been given to you.
After a family member passes, one of the very first things the Executor should do is change the locks to the house. This measure will prevent any neighbors, service providers, or unscrupulous heirs from “helping themselves” to belongings in the house. Nothing should be removed from the house until all the heirs can go through the home together. Always act with integrity and transparency to avoid family disputes over the belongings.
immediate heirs only
When it comes time for the heirs to organize and divide up the belongings, it should be the immediate heirs only. This means no spouses, children, grandchildren, or close family friends. Reducing the number of people involved will streamline the process and keep it simple.
Help Organize Your Aging Parents (While They are Young + Healthy)
with printable guide: Two Easyish Conversations to Have with Your Aging Parents
Declutter, Donate, and Deduct
6 Things to Not Bother Collecting Anymore (and How to Tell What IS Worth Holding Onto)
agree on a fair way to divide items equitably
Before the heirs begin dividing up belongings, agree to a fair way to divide things up. Consider these ideas:
Take the time now to organize, document and talk about your inheritance wishes with your family. It will solve future battles before they even begin.
HOw do you downsize A HOUSE FULL OF STUFF?
At some point, every family in America will be faced with the task of helping their aging parents downsize a home that has probably been lived in for decades. Whether the downsize is to move to a smaller home or an assisted living facility, it can be a tremendously overwhelming process. Where things get tricky, of course, is figuring out what to do with a lifetime of possessions. A home is museum of your family’s life, so it can be emotionally difficult to let things go.
In this post, I’ll share the 5 keys to success for a downsizing project. As a bonus, I’ve created this FREE Discussion Cheat Sheet. Click to download.
Ready to Start the Discussion about Downsizing a Lifetime of Stuff? Keep Reading
#1 Take it One Room at a Time
Downsizing a lifetime of stuff can be an overwhelming and emotional task. Start early, be patient, and respect the emotional distress downsizing can have on your parents.
To help get you started, I’ve created this free Discussion Cheat sheet. Download and put it to good use!
Want to help organize your aging parents? Read on.
Start Talking Before It Gets Awkward
I Know Your Excuses...because they’re the Same Ones I Used
- For APs, NOT TALKING about things is the norm.
- Ditto that for many families. And if you come from the Midwest (like me), we truly excel at not talking about things!
- Talking about Later Life Plans means eventually talking about Death. And nobody likes to think about that.
- There is legal paperwork involved and it’s too complicated, expensive, confusing, and/or overwhelming to start.
- There’s some sort of family discord and somebody will definitely object, be offended and/or hurt by the efforts to discuss Later Life.
- Everyone assumes that the adult child living closest to Mom or Dad will take care of it all.
- Money. Discussing financial plans for Later Life is awkward at best, taboo at worst.
Suck it Up, Buttercup.
Timing Is Everything
(aka Don’t Start Talking at Thanksgiving Dinner)
Emphasize Your Role as an Advocate
End the Conversation with a Plan, No Matter How Small
For example, you could say “Next time we talk, I’ll bring along a printed copy of a blank Living Will for us to discuss”. You also want to make sure you have an agreed-upon plan if your loved ones can no longer make decisions or in the event in an emergency.
A great resource is this free conversation guide, created by A Place for Mom.
What’s the Plan for All the Stuff in the House.
- Sterling Silver (but not silver plated items)
- Coin, stamp, artwork, gun, crystal or other valuable collections
- Truly unique, high-end antiques that are in pristine condition
- Family photos
- Sentimental items (christening & wedding gowns, military memorabilia, etc.)
The best way to describe this is to quote this article from Forbes magazine: “Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff”. Start planning now for what will become of:
- “Brown” furniture
- Most mass-produced china and glassware
- Organs (the musical instrument, not your innards)
- Greeting cards, magazines and newspapers with no historical significance
- Old Tupperware, appliances with frayed cords, and cookbooks
- Flower delivery vases
- Plastic souvenir cups and empty Cool Whip bowls. Trust me: your aging parents have these.
- Your school papers, textbooks, and every drawing you ever did. Keep your diploma, let the rest of it go.
- 80% of the stuff stored in the garage
- Clothing that hasn't been worn in decades
Want to help your aging parents with clearing out all the stuff in the house?
Clutter Puts the Rage in Garage
The 3 Commandments of Closet Organization
Four Important Legal Papers
There are 4 important legal documents you should ensure your aging parent has.
- Will: An up-to-date Will is an important document.
- Living Will (also called Advance Health Care Directive)
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care:
- Durable Power of Attorney for Finances:
- Organ Donation registration
- Final Disposition Instructions (funeral and burial wishes)
- Digital Legacy Plan (learn more about what this ishere)
How can you find out what documents you need in your state?
Want more Advice on Helping your Aging Parents?
They have all the papers in order! Now what?
You've started the process of later life planning!
Coming soon...Later Life Planning Guide, workshops, and one-on-one coaching
Back To Schoool
Before & After
Closet Organization Ideas + Hacks
Downsizing Your Home
Family Schedule Logistics
Garage DIY Organization
Later Life Planning
Organizing Aging Parents
Selling Your Stuff
Weekly Family Routine