Best Practices For Dividing Your Assets

Dividing your assets to ensure family harmony can be easier said than done. Here we explore 8 ways to make the process smooth and simple - even in difficult situations.
Close up of a last will and testament document

Dividing up your assets to ensure family harmony can be easier said than done. If you’re at the point of deciding ‘who gets what,’ here are key things to keep in mind. Ultimately, you are making a decision that can contribute to and create harmony—or provoke endless squabbling. Let's dive in!

Getting Expert Help

If your situation is simple, you may want to consider making a will online.

However, for many people, relationships and assets are complex. The issues regarding distribution of assets amongst people are complicated and often deserve expert attention.

If you’d like to get expert advice, one of the first people to talk with is an estate-planning lawyer. These professionals are highly skilled in the instruments, means, and ways to navigate the turbulent waters of asset division.

If you have a religious or spiritual practice, you may want to discuss distribution of assets with this person. A minister, monk, priest, rabbi or leader is likely to have the unique objective understanding of your family, interactions, history, and issues at play. They can bring a broader perspective to the situation including historical, interpersonal, religious and spiritual understanding.

Experienced professions have seen it all. They have witnessed how families come together and fall apart in regards to distribution of assets. Conflict, friction, and stress often emerge as issues of inheritance come to the foreground.

In the name of peace-of-mind, and harmony, many experts agree that advance planning helps to minimize problems and maximize harmony.

Dividing The Assets

Dividing up your assets can be tricky. Some people are more logical. Others can be more sentimental. Some members of the family may feel entitled to receive more than others. Some children may be physically or psychologically closer than others.

One or more children may live near-by the family home, and dream of raising their children in it someday. One or more children may have been more involved in caring for you and your spouse.

It seems challenging to come up with a peaceful, perfect solution. Yet, in many cases, the simplest, most gracious, and peaceful decision is equality. Simply, leaving an equal inheritance as your legacy.

Equal distribution of your assets is a statement of harmony. Equality sends a message that you seek to foster harmony. By dividing amounts equally, you are showing fairness, respect, and are sharing wealth without favoritism.

In many families, children are living all over the country or the world. If your legacy includes real estate, you’ll need to determine the value of your home and property. It can also come down to a decision about common sense.

In other words, if one child lives nearby has 5 children yet another does not want to be a homeowner—this simplifies your decision. You could leave your family home to the first, and give equivalent cash assets to the second. Differences of physical assets, such as houses, can be balanced with cash or other assets.

Protecting Your Wishes

While many people divide assets with the intention of leaving a generous gift, the recipients may perceive things differently.

One of the ways to protect your wishes for harmony is to include in your will a ‘no contest clause.’ Simply, this provision clearly states that if any of the beneficiaries contests the will, that person will lose his or her portion of the inheritance.

This can prevent an otherwise unhappy family member from engaging in a costly and lengthy legal battle.

Best Practices for Estate Planning

Estate planning experts have been there, and done that. They’ve seen how things can go smoothly, as well as how families can become torn up with contentious battles.

Here are 8 tips for avoiding unnecessary challenges arising from the division of your assets.

  • Make family harmony your top priority.
  • Talking to each child about your will can provide a time to explain your reasoning and avoid surprises.
  • Use a trust to provide structure and assets to a child who may not be able to manage an inheritance on his/her own.
  • Check your state laws regarding number of witnesses required for legal executing.
  • To avoid claims of ‘undue influence,’ do not include any children in the will-writing process.
  • To avoid claims of ‘lack of capacity,’ have your doctor witness your will signing.
  • Update your plan after major changes such as the birth of a younger child.
  • Consider sharing gifts of your wealth during your lifetime.

Assistance Club Summary

The bottom line? Your decisions can promote harmony in your family. Talking to your family is a great place to start. With a clear, unswerving priority for harmony, you’ll have peace of mind in how you’re distributing your assets.