Dear Karen: You advised us previously about divvying up parents’ belongings in a big sibling choosing event. How did your event go, and can you give us the tips you promised?
Dear Curious: I must admit I was pretty anxious about our event. My sister and I devoted considerable time to preparing and inventorying. We wanted to make sure our parents felt good about passing along items without feeling pushed out of the way.
These are the guidelines we set up ahead of time.
» Local siblings can put together the inventory list, with photos if possible.
» Arrange for appraisals of any particularly valuable items.
» Ask your folks to give you a general idea of items they plan to take with them. These items can still be available for picking, but the picker would understand that they might not take possession for a long while.
» Each sibling should try to attend the Eenie Meenie Miney Moe event in person. If that’s not possible, other options are attending by Skype or sending a spouse or adult child as emissary. It will run more smoothly if only siblings or their emissary attend.
» The participants can draw straws for order of pick. Then proceed in order and then reverse order; that is, 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2, 3 and so forth.
» Cover one category at a time, such as furniture, paintings, rugs and kitchen.
» Document the choices with a sticker on the item and a note on the inventory list.
» For the items that are much more valuable, some options include: one sibling buys the others out; siblings co-own and pass it around every few years or items are sold and the proceeds split.
» Items that each sibling gifted to your parents over the years are returned apart from the pick.
» When you reach the point in each category where no one wants to take possession, the rest of those items can go to charity or a rummage sale.
Our actual event differed from our plan in a few ways. After some discussion, we began by assembling a list of our top 10 items. Anything on our list that was not on anyone else’s went to that sibling. For contended items we tried to haggle and trade.
Each of us received seven of our top requests without haggling. Two of the four contended items were resolved easily when the siblings made a trade.
The other two required a longer time (by email over the next couple of months) to decide what to do.
The other main difference is that our brother, who lives thousands of miles away, brought his wife. Since they live far away and she possibly was more interested in home furnishings than he, it was perhaps necessary from their perspective. It did increase the complexity.
Our Eeny Meeny day wasn’t without other sticking points, but I believe in the end we all received items we cared about.
My parents are pleased that we care about their possession, especially momentos passed down through the generations.
No one felt cheated; there was minimal trauma or drama. I’m convinced that all our planning helped keep the “Miney” at bay.
— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor (www.DecisivePath.com) and a freelance writer (www.CanyonVoices.com). Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.