February 11, 2012 in Features

Try to divide your estate equally

Kathy Mitchell/Marcy Sugar Kathy Mitchell

Dear Annie: I am 90 years old and am concerned that after I die my kids will squabble over my things. So I would like to work it out before that happens.

I have a daughter who lives in another state and two wonderful daughters-in-law who live nearby. “Dora” and my oldest son have helped me the most. When my husband was still living, they arranged a reverse mortgage on our house by making us a loan from their personal funds. When my husband became feeble, Dora began doing my grocery shopping. Every Sunday, she brings a nice dinner, and my son does any needed repairs around the house. She always brings me a gift on Mother’s Day and on my birthday.

I already have given Dora two nice heirlooms, and I know she would like to have my mother’s sterling silver. My daughter will get the antique wall clock, and my other daughter-in-law gets the china closet. How do I divide the rest of the stuff? Should I give Dora the sterling now? – Old in Indiana

Dear Indiana: Please speak to an estate planner or, at the very least, a lawyer who can handle your will. As tempting as it is to give more to Dora than the others, it could create all sorts of resentments later. The division of your estate should be relatively equal, but you can make special gifts of pieces of jewelry or sentimental items. If you think your children will behave themselves, it can help to discuss this with all of them in advance, asking each child to select one item that they would like to have. And yes, you can give it to them while you are around to see them enjoy it.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@ comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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