How to divide an inheritance without starting a family feud

Knowing how to divide an inheritance can save you a lot of trouble when this stressful time is sprung upon you with no notice ... photo by CC user Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr

The heartbreak of losing a loved one can be exacerbated if the distribution of their estate turns into a legal battle among family members.

While it is not always easy to stay serene, there are options that can ease the process, from making sure the estate is legally divided before your loved one passes away, to holding a “sentimental auction” for sorting heirlooms.

Here’s how to divide an inheritance as smoothly as possible, given the circumstances…

Be reasonable over property

As part of a will of inheritance, multiple people may become joint owners of a property. If only one party is interested in the property, it will be easy to sell the remaining shares and move on.

If none of the heirs are interested in keeping the property, proceedings might get more complicated. Putting the property on the market might see your family forced to invest in repairs and updates before being able to sell.

This might not necessarily be advantageous, either because the property is in serious disrepair or because nobody wants to take on the work.

In this case, a wise way to make everyone happy without wasting money and time could be to use a cash house buying company that has experience in dealing with property inheritance.

This will allow the heirs to divide the money equally and quickly.

Share the family heirlooms first

The monetary value of an estate is not always the most important thing to keep in mind. Many objects can be priceless due to their sentimental value.

A good way to make sure everyone’s wishes are heard is to create an inventory of all the objects in a home, allowing family members to check off items they wish to claim.

Dealing with items in this way will ease the inheritance process and allow you to focus on dividing equally the few items several people with want.

Alternatively, a curious method, that has been employed before, is to hold a “sentimental auction”. For this, each family member gets a set amount of points to bid on the items that hold most significance to them.

This too is organised and ensures a fair balance of inherited items.

Seek confirmation for items that could be valuable

After each person has examined the heirlooms, you should have a close look at any remaining objects. The house clearance company Clearance Solutions recently posted a blog detailing the amazing finds they’ve discovered throughout their work.

Surprisingly, each of the fascinating items had been left behind as junk when they clearly had resale value.

This serves as a good example of how perceptions can become blinkered when dealing with stressful events. So, before you discard any items that could have potential value, take them to an expert and have them evaluated.

For example, if inheriting fine wines, it will be wise to investigate their collective value before sharing them among the family.

As the fine wine buyers The London Wine Cellar state “wine for investment tends to be sold in sets”, so in the case of wine, the whole could be greater than the sum of its parts.

Put everything in the hands of an external executor

If you’re worried that your family might not work everything out without conflict, you might want to appoint a professional executor right from the start.

This person could be a solicitor, accountant or a bank and will ensure that the estate is divided impartially.

Appointing an external executor might be expensive, but that price won’t go near the emotional and economical expense of entering a legal battle with your relatives.

Remember, if a family member is appointed as the executor, they will have to go through the probate process. With specialist services you can make this much easier, gathering the necessary paperwork, including death certificates, in a stress-free and efficient way.

If things get heated, ask for the help of a mediator

At some points during the process of dividing an estate, some family members may become less than willing to negotiate.

There are various professionals that can take a neutral role in the division of your properties and mitigate any conflict.

While hiring a professional trustee is not cheap, it could save won’t take nearly the emotional and financial toll of fighting with your family over your inheritance.

This kind of dispute is more often driven by grief rather than greed and it is a good idea to try and clear the air before a piece of land ends up dividing the family forever.

Even if you have no interest in keeping your family united, you might want to resort to professionals to avoid the huge cost that come with going into litigation.

A mediator can intervene, gathering the wishes of each family member and helping everybody to reach a compromise. Mediation only finishes after the division has been agreed on by all parties.