Understanding a Parent’s Will and Assets as a Family
(Neptune Society) Whether or not you’re prepared for exactly what it says, the will is often a source of conflict following the death of a parent. Keep in mind that your mother or father likely didn’t make any decisions lightly, so try to consider what the reasoning could be before growing too upset. Perhaps it only looks like your sibling got a bigger share, but you’ve forgotten about the car down payment your parent helped you with several years ago. You might even get further down the will and realize you have left a valuable possession in lieu of a larger inheritance. Refrain from making judgments either way until you’ve heard all the details.
inheritance is a sensitive issue, and it often aggravates underlying resentment among siblings. Disputes over who the “golden child” is (and “always has been”) can make the contents of a will seem skewed, even if the parent genuinely believed they were acting fairly. Further, it’s often not the high-value items that cause problems; instead, sibling fights usually revolve around sentimental possessions. Whether one child expected an item to be left to them instead of who it was passed down to, or no specific directions were left about the item and every sibling wants it, there are constant opportunities for debate.
Do your best to respect the contents of the will as-is. If you’re absolutely convinced that something is askew, take careful consideration before pursuing legal action. These kinds of disputes can stretch on for years and have detrimental consequences to the entire family. If you do take things to court, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re dealing with family. Avoid major arguments that could lead to words you’ll forever regret, and stick to whatever the judge decides.
When it comes to dividing remaining personal assets, look for every opportunity to compromise. If you and your sister have both always loved your mother’s pearl brooch, for instance, consider sharing it. If you live close, you can simply trade it off as occasions arise.
Faraway siblings can use holidays and vacations to lend custody every few months. If you’re worried a brother or sister might sell an item without your consent, draft and sign a legal document specifying the terms of your agreement. Remind anyone who gets defensive that the document protects all of you, and is the only way to keep it fair and impartial.
If there are multiple large-scale possessions to divide up, consider consulting a lawyer who can give you unbiased, accurate input from the very start. It certainly helps keep things fair to have a neutral third party, but do be vocal when something is important to you. Hear out the concerns of your siblings, as well, and see if the lawyer can help negotiate a compromise as needed
Handling Family Property When a Parent Has Passed
Selling the family home is a heartbreaking idea no matter your age, and it certainly isn’t made easier when brought on by the death of a parent. If there are no specific instructions, you and your siblings should consult with a lawyer about options. Much of the decision-making may depend on everyone’s proximity to the home — if one sibling lives close and will be dealing with most of the paperwork and arrangements, they may request a larger piece of the sale profits for their troubles, for example.
You may find that your brothers or sisters aren’t ready to sell the home right away, so don’t rush into it. You can start the cleaning and inspection process without actually having to put it on the market, so be strategic but sensitive. Don’t make any major changes — like re-painting or re-carpeting — without everyone’s consent and awareness.
At the other end, if you find that you are having trouble with the idea of selling the family home, speak up. Your siblings will likely respect that you need some time to adjust to so many major changes and, who knows, might even be relieved you said something first. If they aren’t so understanding, simply ask them to respect your feelings and hold off on trying to sell for at least a month or so. Explain what a major loss this is to you, and in the darkness of your parent’s passing, it’s too much to deal with all at once.
Compassion and honesty will be your most valuable assets throughout the process of laying your parent to rest, especially when it comes to your siblings. If things become especially emotional, consider going to family grief counseling for professional help in sorting things out. Remember that healing will take time for everyone, and that even if hurtful words were traded at the funeral, you can always repair and rebuild with your siblings.
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