Join AARP at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET Thursday for two live Q&A events on the coronavirus and you. Learn more.
by Michael T. Palermo, JD, CFP, AARP en Nuevo México, December 2007
An almost universal duty for the executor (or trustee or court-appointed administrator) is to divvy up household property among several children. For this chore alone, you want somebody with the skills and patience of a referee. This may seem like a trivial issue; my experience tells me it is anything but. While this portion of an estate is likely to be relatively insignificant in financial terms, it has riven families, triggering heartache and resentment.
The potential divisiveness of candlesticks, china, and family photos can be easy to overlook. After all, your will probably directs that all your possessions are to be divided equally. So where’s the problem?
Let’s start with the word “equal.” Does it mean each beneficiary gets a batch of household goods of equal monetary value? Or that each gets the same number of things? Does a brace of candlesticks constitute one item or two? Is Mom’s jewelry to be distributed as a collection, or is each piece in it a separate item? Alternatively, should everything simply be auctioned off and the proceeds equally divided?
As a practical matter, it’s best to give the executor some discretion in these choices. But it is also wise to remind the child you’ve chosen as executor to apply her diplomatic skills to the job. Even when no sibling rivalry is apparent, convene a family powwow at the time you put your estate plan together. Get everybody on the same page to determine if any lurking issues need to be addressed while you are still around to do so.
From “AARP Crash Course in Estate Planning: The Essential Guide to Wills, Trusts and Your Personal Legacy,” by Michael T. Palermo, JD, CFP, 2005, pp. 112.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Enter address, city, state, or ZIP code.
Driver Safety (0)
Tax Aide (0)
Entertainment & Dining (0)
Healthcare & Insurance (0)
Financial Services & Insurance (0)
Member Local Offers (0)
Visit the AARP state page for information about events, news and resources near you.
Members can take a free confidential hearing test by phone.
Exclusive program for members from The Hartford.
25% off the first healthy meal delivery of $99+.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at