By Harry S. Margolis
An article I recently wrote for Next Avenue, the public television website for Baby Boomers, explains how the family of a college friend divided 100s of items from their parents' estates among the four siblings. The article, "A Clever Way to Divvy Up Items After a Parent's Death," describes the multi-step process the family used to maximize the value each child, as well as their own children, would receive from the estate items.
Unlike savings and investments, what estate planners call "intangible personal property," items such as furniture, artwork, books, silverware, dishes, cars and clothes, ("tangible personal property") cannot be broken up and evenly divided. So, what's the best way to decide who gets what? Should it be based on monetary value, sentimental value, utility to the recipient, or any other standard? What happens when a single item or several have significantly more monetary value than everything else?