Who Gets the Pretty Lamp? The Biggest Fights in Estates Can Be Over the Smallest Items!
Siblings tend to be reasonable when it comes to dividing their parents’ estate, especially when divided in equal shares between the siblings. However, it is nearly impossible to equalize the tangible personal property (TPP) , i.e., the furniture, the artwork, the dishes, the family Bible, the sterling silver, the dogs, the cats, etc. The sentimental TPP can cause major rifts with the siblings.
Many items of TPP reflect siblings’ feelings of growing up and whether their parents’ loved one of the siblings more than the other. These feelings are exacerbated when their parents are gone and they are not there to “mediate” the controversies. It is really unfortunate that arguments over the smallest financial items may cause the greatest amount of attorney fees.
So.. how does this get resolved? Under Section 732.515 of the Florida Statutes an individual can prepare a “separate writing” in which they can list specific items of TPP and to whom the items of TPP are to be distributed. This separate writing merely needs to be referred to in the will and only has to be signed and dated by the individual. The statute specifically EXCLUDES property used in a trade of business so a separate writing can NOT dispose of items used in a trade of business, even though such items may be TPP.
I remind my clients to complete the separate writing and while they often do prepare the writing they may buy more items of TPP, get rid of items of TPP or just forget about preparing a new separate writing.
So let us assume that this separate writing is never prepared or does not cover all of the decedent’s TPP. What are some alternatives that could be included in the will?
1. Direct the personal representative to make the decision on how to distribute. (potential problems if personal representative is a sibling)
1. Direct the personal representative to sell all TPP. (some family members may really want those items of TPP that other family members really don’t want. Do you want to make them pay for it? )
2. The children make up a list of what they want and an independent person or personal representative coordinates the lists of what each child wants. (need an independent person and some kind of negotiation over the items that are the same)
3. Draw straws such that the longest straw is the first to pick and continue until all TPP is distributed. (seems to be the fairest)
4. Bidding at an auction with “play” money not real money for the TPP. (this also seems fair as the wealthy siblings can’t buy their share of the TPP to the detriment of the less wealthy siblings).
The above are just beginning ideas. You may have other ideas. The point is to plan!
ADVICE: PLAN PLAN PLAN for how you want your TPP to be distributed or sold and make the process clear in your documents. Prepare a separate writing and update that separate writing on an annual basis.
GENEROSITY IS A KEY TO HAPPINESS …REACH OUT AND HELP SOMEONE TODAY!