Can I administer my Mom’s estate without killing my siblings?

Fast & CompanyGeneral

If you are the administrator of your parent’s estate and you have at least one sibling, chances are good that you have first-hand experience with frustration.

There’s something about parental inheritance that turns otherwise pleasantly civil siblings into the snarling and scrapping toddlers they once were. When the estate administrator is also an heir, he or she might have to deal with feelings of resentment and latent sibling rivalry that mom or dad always chose their favourite. Even if that doesn’t apply, spats and all-out wars can break out over family trinkets with negligible monetary value.

When the distribution of personal property becomes too contentious to manage, an estate administrator may have to threaten the nuclear option — selling the entire estate and splitting the proceeds equally. That can sometimes bring recalcitrant heirs around to a more measured and civil distribution process. If siblings remain obstinate, it’s up to the estate administrator to arrange the sale and set the prices. Siblings who want a particular item can buy it at the sale. Of course if the estate contains valuable personal items like collectibles or antiques not specifically bequeathed in the parent’s will, those must be properly valuated by an expert.

If the parent anticipated problems, he or she may have set up a clause in the will stating that any estate item still in dispute by the heirs at the conclusion of the probate process will be donated to charity. If that’s the case with your situation, your parent made your job a little easier.

An estate lawyer can help you navigate the shoals of administering family estates and be an effective buffer that allows you to preserve a semblance of sibling harmony.