Chapter 5: Your sibling’s belongings

When there is conflict

My sister was single and very successful. Some of my other siblings had been jealous, and when she died, they couldn’t wait to get their hands on her things. I found it offensive and upsetting.

My brother’s wife took complete control and never asked me or any of my family about our wishes. We have no idea what happened to most of her things. It caused a lot of stress and bad feelings.

Depending on who was named or appointed to settle your sibling’s estate, difficulties may arise if there are differing opinions about what should be done. If your sibling had a partner or spouse, they will likely assume this role. If your sibling was single, they may or may not have named someone in their will to be their executor or personal representative.

It may happen that more than one person would like a particular item. Misunderstandings or miscommunication are common during this time. It’s important to not let these escalate into serious conflicts or estrangement.

Even if everyone is in general agreement about what to do, they may disagree about when to do it. Some people feel a need to begin this process before others are ready, and this can create pressure and stress.

What may help

Acknowledging differences and communicating openly with each other can help reduce the risk of misunderstandings and hard feelings.

Agreeing on a process for decision-making before sorting or distributing belongings can go a long way in helping to reduce the risk of conflict.

What might feel important in the moment can quickly lose its appeal if a relationship is shattered over it. Try to keep communication respectful, take a break if things become heated, and step back to gain perspective.