How We Settled My Father’s Estate Without an Angry Word.

Don’t leave a mess for your children to clean up

This is the story of how my step mother, three brothers, sister and I settled dad’s estate and did it without upsetting the family harmony. 

We all know that poor planning by a mom or dad can cause hurt feelings between family members for years.  We all know stories of family feuds caused by dad or mom’s estate.  You taught your children to clean up their messes while they were growing up, now reinforce it one last time.  Here is how our family did it without an angry word. 

My father married again at age 75 after losing two wonderful wives.  His first wife Ruth, my mother, he lost to cancer, and Merita to heart disease.  Dad had the wisdom to look for and choose women of high moral character with strong Christian virtues.  I know he always felt blessed by this and maybe even a little envied. 

My dad and his third wife Anna both had grown children and both had been savers during their working years.  Neither was financially dependent upon the other and both had a retirement income to supplement their social security. 

Prior to their marriage they both agreed they needed a pre-nuptial agreement and to keep their finances separate, so that at either of their deaths, the estates could easily pass to their children. 

My father’s Will was an essential part of his plan.   In my father’s will, he named the executors of his estate and provided instructions on how to execute his wishes.  It was my father’s desire that his estate be divided equally among his children and he chose my brother and sister to be co executors.  Fortunately, both lived in the same city as my father.  In reality, my sister turned the duties over to my brother as we all trusted him to do a good job. 

Upon the death of my father after 9 years of marriage, my stepmother showed her great character and helped us to gather my father’s personal effects she felt would be important to us.  We were also fortunate that my father had an Estate Directory leading us to the location of all his important papers and documents.  (contact us if you would like to know more about an Estate Directory)

My brother, the executor, was a great choice to execute my father’s will.  Not only was he local, but  he is very honest and meticulous.  To begin, he provided all the siblings with a very detailed and thorough inventory of our father’s assets.

In addition to the will, my father had chosen to divide equally, among his children, the proceeds of his life insurance through his beneficiary designations.  If you have not reviewed your beneficiary designations in a while, it is good to do at least a biannual review of life policies because things change in time.  (A policy review is free service we offer to our clients and prospective clients.  Call us if you would like to have a review of your policies whether or not you bought the policies from us.)

The gist of my father’s will was:

  1. He wanted an equal distribution of his liquid assets ie. Certificates of deposit, checking accounts and mutual funds.  (This was the easy part)
  2. He wanted all his personal assets inventoried and a silent auction held among his children. (Contact us if you need details for how to hold a silent auction)  Dad felt this was especially fair since each child had already received cash to bid for the items they wanted.  (Some items were purchased and given to grandchildren as keepsakes)  The auction proceeds were divided equally.
  3. He wanted all unsold items to be sold at an estate sale and proceeds divided equally among the children. 

This process is a recipe for a harmonious transition.  Obviously, the high character level of all involved was a contributing factor for the smooth transition, but the plan and process was even more important, because it eliminated the potential for disagreements and disharmony. 

 If you would like further help you can email me at or call me on my cell at 256-436-9990.  All advice is free of charge. 

  • Shevelia Holt

    Hmmm. So many good ideas in this. Your father was indeed a wise man.

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