Scenario 1: The deceased relative with a will
Scenario 2: The deceased relative without a will
“The court will not look kindly upon a personal representative [the estate’s executor] who takes up valuable court time after refusing to share family photos and objects of little economic value with family members,” Admire says. “Unless there is a strong reason for not doing so, a personal representative is going to look foolish for not sharing these items voluntarily.”
Scenario 3: The uncooperative heir
Grandmother Sue, who lived in another part of the country, died and left her favorite grandson Norm in charge of her estate. Norm isn’t on speaking terms with his sister or any of the other grandchildren. Because he lives nearby, Norm plans to go to the house, take the family photo albums for himself, sell anything of monetary value and toss the rest.
Though the process of scanning and printing the images can be expensive, there might be money in the estate to cover the cost. If there’s no money in the estate and you can’t afford to have them professionally processed, a less expensive option is to scan the images yourself and put them on CD or on a Web site where they’re available to everyone.
Scenario 4: The missing heir
When the identity of or the location of an heir is unknown, the personal representative and other family members first need to make every effort to find this person, Admire says. If that proves fruitless, the personal representative and another family member can divide the property as they see fit, perhaps setting aside a few small items for the unknown heir, should he turn up some day.
Scenario 5: Living relatives
Tell them you’ve spoken to your father and he said you could have the item, but be sure to ask them if they’re OK with that. You might also say what you plan to do with the item and that it will be available for them to see any time.
And don’t worry if you’re unsure which of your relatives will end up family historian for the next generation. Name someone you trust now; if someone else turns out to be a better fit, you can always change your will.
For more information and tips, visit Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate? <www.yellowpieplate.umn.edu>, an online guide to passing on personal belongings.