One of the most challenging jobs for a successor trustee or personal representative of an estate: dividing personal property among the beneficiaries or heirs. If you’re in charge of administering an estate, how do you decide which of your siblings gets the silver, who gets the antique furniture, and how you’re going to handle thousands of family photos?
In an earlier podcast episode, we talked about what to do with your parent’s house. The same principles apply to personal property — except that it is usually more numerous, has lower values and carries a lot of emotional interest along with the financial value.
As with everything, your duty when dividing the personal property is to be fair — and to consider the costs. Do you need to get appraisals for all the personal property? (Probably not, but sometimes it makes sense or might even be required.) Should you have a family “auction”, with everyone bidding against their inheritance? Maybe, but it might not be the most efficient approach.
Efficiency is not an absolute requirement, but it is an important guideline. If it were all about efficiency, it would be easy: sell everything and divide the proceeds. That’s seldom the most popular choice among the heirs and beneficiaries.
In this podcast episode, we discuss dividing personal property from the perspective of the trustee or personal representative. As always, talk with your lawyer about this and other estate administration problems. In the meantime, we give you some ideas to consider in that meeting.