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How To Prepare To Write A Will

What To Do If You Want Your Heirs To Divide Your Personal Property Among Themselves

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The division of personal property is a potential source of conflict among beneficiaries. According to a poll conducted in 2005 by Allianz Life Insurance Company, heirs are five times more likely to fight about distributing personal possessions than about money.

To avoid problems, consider the following alternatives to see if one works for you:

  • Ask your heirs what they want -- and why. Or ask your heirs what property is meaningful to them, and why.  You can use their wishes to help you make your own decision. If more than one wants the same item, you can decide who gets it.
  • Pick a system for your heirs to use after you're gone. If you do, be sure to tell them. For instance:
    • Separate the valuable items from the sentimental ones that aren't worth a lot. 
    • For each group of assets, put numbers on sheets of paper equal to the number of people who will divide the property. 
    • Each person randomly pulls a number. 
    • The person with the highest number chooses first, the next lowest chooses second etc. 
    • If you use this me thod, it would be helpful if you prepare a list of assets - particularly the ones with real financial value. To help prepare your  list  of assets, see Household Inventory.
  • The Executor can host an auction with fake money. 
    • Each beneficiary starts with the same amount of money. 
    • People bid on the objects they want.
  • If you want to make sure that each beneficiary receives an equal dollar share: 
    • Once all of your assets have been distributed, your heirs can add up the value of the chosen items, (getting appraisals where necessary). 
    • Cash or other items of lesser value can be added to balance everything out.
  • If your heirs are unable to decide among themselves about who gets what assets within a period of time such as 60 or 90 days after your Will is admitted to probate, you can have the Executor decide. His or her decision would be binding.
  • Heirs can draw lots.

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