Holiday Recommendations to Avoid a Rift in the Future

woman on gray cardigan standing near table doing cheers

Thanksgiving may be the time to begin a family discussion about favorite family items and wishes for the future. The holidays may be a time for thanks and reflection, but it may also be a time to ask your father to consider leaving you his favorite t-shirt or his service medals to avoid a family rift in the future. 

Your “stuff” may come with various memories and emotions that will differ among your family members. Disharmony among adult siblings often comes at emotional times, such as the loss of a parent or the downsizing of your family home.

My client “Maria” (not her real name) lost her father. She and her brothers never had a close relationship during dad’s life, but it went haywire following his passing, all over a lawnmower.

“Wendy,” the neighborhood gossip, witnessed Maria’s brother taking items out of the garage late one night and abruptly called Maria. Maria then began fighting with her brothers over the mower! While many people may like lawnmowers, for some reason, it touched a nerve in my client, and she wanted that one! This family also fought over a book and other “cherished” items.

The push and grab over “stuff” sometimes happens to the best families out of grief, frustration, or resentment following a parent’s passing.

While my clients often prepare a list of assets such as homes, bank accounts, and investment accounts to pass to their heirs, what is usually missing are the personal items that, while not expensive, are priceless for their sentimental value. Often these items will cause big family fights between children who feel there was not a fair division of these assets.

If your goal is family harmony, it could be a huge blunder to fail to consider the emotional ties children may have to their parent’s possessions.

I have several ways to remedy this potential disaster.

woman holding pan with food

I remember the remarkable way my sister, cousins, and I divided my Grandma Sara’s tea sets and tchotchkes “stuff.” We went around a circle, each picking one piece after another. The process was emotional as we discussed each item and different memories of our loving grandmother. 

Since fairness means different things to different people, the processes of drawing lots, letting people pick in birth order, or devising something else to divide is valuable. What’s important is to follow the chosen strategy.

Even if you’re irritated that one sibling got what you wanted, if you agree to the division strategy, you may be okay with the outcome vs. angry like Maria, whose brothers came in late at night to “clean out” the house.

A software tool called “FairSplit” helps families divide assets. According to the website, the “system helps move all parties toward agreement and lets each party know that the system provides them a fair and equitable way to divide. FairSplit helps divide things, not families.”

Sometimes the best strategy is the simplest one: Ask people what they want ahead of time. Many women enjoy gifting jewelry to grown children to see it worn and appreciated. Or, they may say they do not want any of your stuff!

Such talks force us to confront the inevitability of aging. The alternative is to keep quiet and risk a family divided over “Stuff.” 

Andrea L. Jakob, PA is located at 12401 Orange Drive, suite 219 in Davie. They can be reached at 954-862-1479 or on the web at