Sunday, June 1, 2008

Dividing non-financial assets in inheritances

Here's a story chock full of good anecdotes and advice on dividing up physical assets for heirs. The lead 'graf sums it up.

Several years before Jeannie Stevens' parents passed away, they invited their three children to an unusual Thanksgiving gathering. The engraved invitation informed the heirs of their right to divvy up more than $1 million of "worldly belongings," including a $90,000 painting by Hudson River School painter Asher Durand, a Heppelwhite sideboard, and a 17th century silver kettle. The siblings drew straws to determine who would pick first and reversed order in successive rounds until everything was spoken for. All of the items were earmarked "for future delivery." At first, Stevens recalls, she and her siblings were "very uncomfortable" with the experience, in part because it forced them to confront their parents' mortality. But when their parents did die, "it made life simple at a very tough time," she says.