Keeping Things Fair When Dividing Up an Estate

June 1, 2017

My family recently had to divide up my parents’ belongings so their home could be listed and sold. It was a long and stressful process especially when most of the work happened on the weekends after working all week.

At some point, you may have to sort through a loved one’s home to settle an estate or obtain the financial means necessary to care for a family member that’s in long-term care. It’s not an easy or quick process especially when memories are attached to many of the items. It also becomes more increasingly difficult when multiple siblings or family members are also vying for the same pieces with memories of their own. Is there an easy way to approach this? Not necessarily. There are some ways that you can make the task more tolerable for everyone.

estate, family, dividing assets

Determine a fair and equitable system

Before you begin, establish a system of dividing the items that everyone believes is fair. Dividing items will become increasingly more challenging with things that are in contention. Determining your method of attack ahead of time can help alleviate hurt feelings that could happen during the process.

estate, family, dividing assets

Hire an appraiser

One way to keep things fair is to hire an appraiser to give you a value estimate of specific items. The higher priced items can be chosen from at one time, or put in a group with other like items. It will also help when it comes time to record the things that you have taken from the estate, along with their value. Jewelry items will most likely need to have a separate appraisal.

Group like items

Grouping like items together before you choose allows you to see everything that’s there and make your choice(s) accordingly. Instead of grouping all Christmas, ornaments, and cookie cutters together, do the Christmas items in one group, the cookie cutters in a second group and the ornaments in a third, family, dividing assets

Take turns picking

If your sibling/family member picks first on one group of items, they will move to the end of the rotation on the next group of things. Taking turns allows all siblings or family members to have an opportunity to choose first, second, third, etc.

estate, family, dividing assets

Keep track of your items

It is important that you keep track of the things that you take from the estate along with their value. If the appraiser didn’t value an item, you could look it up online to see what it the value is. Keep a record of the items as you get them, so you remember what you have, and it isn’t an overwhelming task once everything is complete. When the estate is settled financially, you can equal out the amount for everyone based on the monetary value of the items they took.

estate, family, dividing assets


Sorting through and dividing up an estate is not an easy task. It also becomes more increasingly difficult when family members are vying for the same pieces. Work from the beginning to keep things as fair and equitable as possible.

Until next time,