Hold a meeting with beneficiaries to allocate assets

Communicate in Advance

Regardless of the method you choose to allocate the assets, communicate the planned approach to beneficiaries at least a week before the meeting. This will give them time to discuss their potential interest in specific items with other relevant parties, like their spouses, who might not be invited to this meeting.

If you have had the assets valued by a third party, also share this information in advance to minimize any surprises. If specific assets have been given to specific beneficiaries in the will, also include that in this communication if beneficiaries are not yet aware of this. Remember your goal is to be as fair as possible and minimize surprises to beneficiaries coming to the meeting.

Hold the Meeting

If possible, hold the meeting in the decedent’s home, and bring any items of value that you have removed from the home so they can be viewed by the beneficiaries. This also will reinforce that all assets are still being held safely, and that you are acting in good faith as the executor.

After the Meeting

What you will allow beneficiaries to actually “take” at the end of this meeting is dependent on two factors. If items will be needed in the home to maximize the value of the home when you sell it, you will want to leave them until the house is under contract. If you have engaged a realtor at this point, get his or her opinion on whether an item will still be needed in the home.

The second consideration is the financial health of the estate. If you are sure there will be adequate cash to distribute after payment of all bills and taxes, you can allow (or request) beneficiaries take items that are not critical to selling the house. You will simplify the logistics related to decluttering the home for sale significantly if the beneficiaries clear out unnecessary clutter as a part of completing this process.

If you have concerns about the excess cash that will be available to pay all bills, let all beneficiaries know at the start of the meeting that they cannot take any items of value yet. This is simply a meeting to determine who will be entitled to what at the end of the process. Also make sure that you communicate that if a beneficiary requests property in excess of the value of their portion of the estate, he or she will need to pay for those items with cash before taking possession of them.