Divvying up family possessions: A lesson in diplomacy

Future-Proof: Navigate Threats, Seize Opportunities at ICNY 2018 | Jan 22-26 at the Marriott Marquis, Times Square, New York

You've decided to turn your dream house into a real house, and you find yourself designing the family room around the living room set you expect to inherit someday from your aging parents. The spot above your new fireplace will be perfect for their painting of the Michigan sand dunes where you spent every summer of your childhood. On the mantelpiece below the painting you'll place the pair of silver candlesticks they got as a wedding present, just as they display them now. It sounds great; just don't fine-tune the family room design to such a degree that no other furnishings will work in it. If you have siblings, they will want those cherished family possessions as much as you do, even if they have never said a word about it. You might get the painting or the candlesticks or the furniture, but you won't get everything. At least that was my experience with my three siblings when we divided up our parents' belongings. Unlike most families, who do this only once, we did it four times,...