While Irene’s children sorted through her possessions, Barbara found Irene’s very expensive diamond ring in a shoe, where Irene has put it for “safekeeping.” Barbara immediately put on the ring.
Dispute: As executor of Irene’s will, Joe is responsible to fairly distribute his mother’s estate between himself and his siblings, all of whom are economically prosperous. Joe cannot do this if the ring is not included in the estate.
In the presence of his siblings, Joe tells Barbara that the diamond ring has to be included in the estate. Barbara tells Joe that he will have to cut off her finger to get the ring.
The siblings agree to meet with me to hopefully resolve the dispute.
Discussion: I met with Joe and his siblings in their mother’s home. Joe opened the discussion by saying he takes his responsibility to carry out his mother’s wishes and to be fair to his siblings very seriously. Joe notes their mother doesn’t mention the ring in her will. Joe points out that the ring is very valuable and it would not be fair for Barbara to have a greater share of the estate.
Joe and his siblings, including Barbara, talk about the ring and its economic and emotional value. One of the other siblings says if their mother wanted Barbara to have the ring, she would have given it to her rather than store it in her shoe.
Everyone agrees that the ring should not be sold or changed. Eventually the siblings agree their mother probably promised the ring to Barbara. One of the siblings remembers their mother put the ring in a “safe place” that she later could not find.
Joe and his siblings are very sad at the passing of their mother and agree they cannot bear to fight with each other. The siblings do not want the ring to be sold and they agree that seeing the ring on their sister’s hand reminds them of their mother.
Resolution: The siblings ultimately agree the ring should be excluded from the value of their mother’s estate and that Barbara should have it.
Irene’s children could have taken the issue of the ring to court and the judge would have been bound to include it or at least its value in the division of Irene’s estate. This would cost the estate thousands of dollars in legal fees, emotional distress to her children and likely damage to her children’s relationships.
I think Irene would be proud of the way her children resolved their dispute. Irene would probably be gratified to know that her children valued their relationships with one another more than the value of a ring and that they would think of her when they see it on their sister’s finger.
If you have a dispute you would like me to consider in this column contact me at 801-994-6000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers also can also check out my website at www.krisrogers.com.