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Distributing Non-Financial Assets from Estate
Old 04-17-2018, 08:15 PM   #1
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Distributing Non-Financial Assets from Estate

As Executor, how did you fairly distribute non-financial assets from an Estate. For example, let's say one beneficiary has no interest in the vacation home, one would like to "share" it indefinitely among family members, and one wants to sell to the highest bidder, splitting the proceeds with other beneficiaries. What if one family member says, "Mom promised me that diamond ring"?

The will is very top level, no specifics. But we get comments like, "I don't think Mom and Dad would have....."

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Old 04-17-2018, 08:22 PM   #2
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How removed are you from this estate- i.e., is this your family too?
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Old 04-17-2018, 08:41 PM   #3
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As Executor, how did you fairly distribute non-financial assets from an Estate. For example, let's say one beneficiary has no interest in the vacation home, one would like to "share" it indefinitely among family members, and one wants to sell to the highest bidder, splitting the proceeds with other beneficiaries. What if one family member says, "Mom promised me that diamond ring"?

The will is very top level, no specifics. But we get comments like, "I don't think Mom and Dad would have....."

I would have your attorney draft a "distribution agreement" where the parties agree what they are each getting. Should be pretty simple. In a place like California there can be property tax issues to pay attention to so using an experienced probate/trust attorney would be advised.
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Old 04-17-2018, 08:46 PM   #4
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How removed are you from this estate- i.e., is this your family too?
My wife is the Executor. But I am anticipating being Executor for my family in the near future.
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Old 04-17-2018, 09:01 PM   #5
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I meant, is this your wife's parents? People you know? Familiar with family dynamics? Family friend?
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Old 04-17-2018, 09:58 PM   #6
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I'm not really this bold in real life, but in this situation I would draft a distribution agreement myself with a cover sheet that read, "This is how I'm doing it. If anyone objects, I will resign as executor and y'all can figure it out." I would of course make sure that I followed the letter of the will and any firsthand knowledge I had about the deceased's wishes as much as I could.
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Old 04-18-2018, 05:07 AM   #7
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I would have your attorney draft a "distribution agreement" where the parties agree what they are each getting. Should be pretty simple. In a place like California there can be property tax issues to pay attention to so using an experienced probate/trust attorney would be advised.
Thanks for the inputs. We have an attorney, but he can't decide who gets grandma's wedding ring. Sure, he can document items like this when everyone agrees, but there are hard feelings starting to surface.
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Old 04-18-2018, 05:13 AM   #8
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I meant, is this your wife's parents? People you know? Familiar with family dynamics? Family friend?
Yes, wife's parents estate. Just curious how others distributed. For the most part, everything has gone smooth with everyone going in order picking small dollar, non-sentimental items. But we hit a couple bumps with larger items. Undocumented "agreements" and assumptions seem to be an issue as well.
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Old 04-18-2018, 05:32 AM   #9
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I'm not really this bold in real life, but in this situation I would draft a distribution agreement myself with a cover sheet that read, "This is how I'm doing it. If anyone objects, I will resign as executor and y'all can figure it out." I would of course make sure that I followed the letter of the will and any firsthand knowledge I had about the deceased's wishes as much as I could.
Interesting suggestion. I took your words, and modified to what DW did:

"This is how I'm proposing doing it. If anyone objects, please let me know I will resign as executor and y'all can figure it out." She is walking the line between family peace and fairly distributing value.

Part of the problem came up when people had passively agreed, DW publishes a plan, then people stew about it and have second thoughts, which are much more emotional. I think all of life's experience, and the "mom always loved you best part" comes up to the surface.

As far as your suggestion on resigning, that would be a disaster for us at this point. The estate distribution is in the home stretch with many of the legal documents in place or pending approval. And, most importantly, the person next in line of the Executor position would be a complete failure, and I think he would be the first to admit. He is extremely supportive of DW, probably because he knows he is next up on the chopping block
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Old 04-18-2018, 06:21 AM   #10
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Thanks for the inputs. We have an attorney, but he can't decide who gets grandma's wedding ring. Sure, he can document items like this when everyone agrees, but there are hard feelings starting to surface.
One solution might be to have the ring owned by either "the family" or by those who care about it and each person gets to use it for a year and then passes it on to the next sibling.. you could make the year end on the decedent's birthday or date of death as a nice reminder of her.

Or alternatively, sell the ring but allow beneficiaries to buy it at the appraised value if they wish.
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Old 04-18-2018, 06:26 AM   #11
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I’m executor of DF’s estate and I need to appreciate just how lucky I am with my family getting along as well as we do. I was begging people to take “stuff” to keep antiques out of the landfill. Nothing of great value, though, except a coin collection which I liquidated and put the money in the pot.
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Old 04-18-2018, 06:28 AM   #12
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One solution might be to have the ring owned by either "the family" or by those who care about it and each person gets to use it for a year and then passes it on to the next sibling.. you could make the year end on the decedent's birthday or date of death as a nice reminder of her.

Or alternatively, sell the ring but allow beneficiaries to buy it at the appraised value if they wish.
Thanks for the suggestions. I was hoping you would weigh in, since I know you have been down this road before (and maybe still).

I like the first one. The second is basically what she proposed.
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Old 04-18-2018, 06:33 AM   #13
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I’m executor of DF’s estate and I need to appreciate just how lucky I am with my family getting along as well as we do. I was begging people to take “stuff” to keep antiques out of the landfill. Nothing of great value, though, except a coin collection which I liquidated and put the money in the pot.
We have been lucky as well, just a few family meltdowns along the way. We're down to the end, so DW would just like to be done, and avoid the drama.
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Old 04-18-2018, 07:29 AM   #14
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Public auction, the highest bidder gets what they want and executor liquidates proceeds to heirs accordingly. Nobody can argue with that.


Good luck to you and DW, families can break fighting over small items of personal property in situations like this.
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Old 04-18-2018, 09:26 AM   #15
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A friend had this problem. Some very emotional moments. They had some of the goods (jewelry) appraised. Each family member had the opportunity to say what they wanted. If more than one person wanted something, they drew names, with the "winner" not being in the next drawing. Then they evened up things with the cash distribution when the house was sold. This of course was when the will stated "equal shares" among the survivors.

Not everyone was happy in the end, but after some time passed, emotions settled and all is good now.
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Old 04-18-2018, 10:11 AM   #16
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A friend had this problem. Some very emotional moments. They had some of the goods (jewelry) appraised. Each family member had the opportunity to say what they wanted. If more than one person wanted something, they drew names, with the "winner" not being in the next drawing. Then they evened up things with the cash distribution when the house was sold. This of course was when the will stated "equal shares" among the survivors.

Not everyone was happy in the end, but after some time passed, emotions settled and all is good now.
That kind of system seems really good to me. I think you just have to explain to anyone that says "Mom said I could have ..." that if it isn't written in the will, it isn't fair to everyone else to just give things out that way. They still have a chance to get what they wanted with this method, but it doesn't come as a bonus to everything else. Maybe even tell a white lie and say "Mom also told me that I could have <something else> but she didn't write it down so I'm using the same way to give everyone else a chance at it." Probably nobody will be real happy, but nobody should carry a grudge if it's done fairly.
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Old 04-18-2018, 11:13 AM   #17
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Here's how some backwoods yokels handled this situation:

Years ago my ex-DWs grandmother died. Grandma was a cruel, manipulative woman who promised the same non-financial items to her five vile heirs. (Grampa had died young, I suspect because he wanted to). "She promised me the grandfather clock in 1967, so any claims after that are void". "No, she promised ME the grandfather clock in 1981, so that supersedes your earlier claim". She did this with most of her belongings, but of course not in writing or around witnesses. So some heirs solved the problem themselves by breaking into grandma's house and robbing it. The heirs who lived farther away couldn't get to grandma's house fast enough to take the prime stuff, so they showed up in a second wave, filled with spite, and took everything not nailed down.

Poof! Non-financial assets - what non-financial assets?
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Old 04-18-2018, 12:01 PM   #18
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My attorney told me that it is the "stuff" that causes the most problems in settling an estate, not the $$. She advised that things either be clearly earmarked or actually given away while the person is still alive.
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Old 04-18-2018, 12:04 PM   #19
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What my grandmother did was to place a sticker in an unnoticeable place (in a drawer or under an item) with the name of the person who she had promised it to. That worked well.
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Old 04-18-2018, 12:17 PM   #20
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What my grandmother did was to place a sticker in an unnoticeable place (in a drawer or under an item) with the name of the person who she had promised it to. That worked well.
I gotta get me some of those stickers, and go to work next time I visit!
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