I’m not imaginative enough to make the next one up. It really happened.

An elderly mom had three children and all were very close. Indeed, the three sons lived with Mom into their sixties. Yes, the four of them lived together most of their lives, and that’s not even the strangest part of this story: one of the boys finally got married and moved out. Shortly thereafter, Mom died leaving one-third of her estate to each of her children.

It was a very simple will since that was Mom’s only desire. Simple enough, right?

Fast forward seven years because this estate had not been settled yet. The new wife of one of the sons wanted certain personal effects not discussed in the will. As the years passed, the animosity between these siblings reached absurd levels. After six years of negotiation and threats, they finally got down to splitting up the two remaining assets, Dad’s old camera lenses and equipment and a 50-year-old family cactus plant. This almost went to court.

Yes, I did say a cactus plant!

It was at this time the case was assigned to my office. As my own frustration grew with these people, I made the suggestion that with a hammer for the lenses, and a knife for the plant, I could split these up evenly! They weren’t awfully impressed with my idea for some reason.

Bottom line here, make sure you identify personal heirlooms in your will, and if you are an executor, make sure personal heirlooms are identified during the person’s lifetime to avoid heartburn for yourself after their death. On a related note, make sure you have someone selected to make the final decision for anything not covered in your will.

For example, I was helping my dad write his will. I said to him, “Dad, you have three boys but you have one and only one 1965 cherry red GTO convertible in the barn. Who gets it someday?”

He told me the youngest sibling would get it (darn, I’m the middle kid), so I placed this instruction in his will. I took the additional step to inform my older brother of the decision, and after two days of crying, he came to terms with our dad’s decision.

Bottom line, there won’t be a fight between us siblings over “stuff” since this and all other family heirlooms are now addressed in my parents’ wills.