Distributing Personal Effects (Part 1 of 3)

I Called it First!

Chris Eckrich
Chris Eckrich

Families of wealth often accumulate numerous objects of both tangible and intangible value over a lifetime.  When parents approach the later years of life they often begin downsizing or distributing personal effects.  Parents frequently value family harmony and realize that the distribution of personal effects can create anxieties and competition amongst the sibling group or grandchildren as they start to distribute belonging that they are ready to part with.   Often an item or two is passed on to a son, daughter or grandchild who has a personal attachment to the item and it is done out of love as a means of sharing something valued to a loved one.  It is especially normal for parents to be most aware of interest in items from those children who spend the most time in their home.  The child who comes over once a week has many more opportunities to clarify their interests than the child who lives overseas or across the country and may only visit once or twice a year.

Parents help their families by thinking through how the entire family may be impacted by the distribution of personal effects.  Seeking reasonable balance in financial value is important, but so too is seeking balance in sharing items that have sentimental value.  After all, these objects will become stimulators of joyful memories (hopefully) in the years to come.  Most parents at this life stage simply want to share valued items with their children and get to watch their children enjoy having or using the items while the parents are living.  Parents can avoid unexpected consequences such as family jealousies or disturbance by creating a process that they will follow in distributing personal effects and communicating the process to their children so everybody understands what is happening.  Late in life is not a good time for parents to experience their children wondering, “Am I really loved as much as my siblings?”  While sibling jealousies have to be managed by the siblings themselves, sage advice suggests a planned approach to distributing personal effects so as not to stoke fires of sibling competition and create hurt when only love and sharing were intended.


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