Gerry Beyer over at the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog posted a little while ago about a new way to solve the age-old question of who gets the stuff when someone dies: auction it off. Not in the usual, sell-everything-and-share-the-profits type of auction, mind you. Gerry is talking about sites like eDivvyup, which allow family members to bid on actual items that they want to take out of the estate.
eDivvyup works by having the executor set up a private, online auction site which family members and other interested persons are invited to. Each person is assigned credits; those credits can be used to bid on items. The person who bids the most credits will be the person who wins the item, but each person has a finite number of points, so they must choose which items are truly the most important to them.
I have often found that the division of personal items causes more strife than the division of money. Perhaps this is the solution: by forcing beneficiaries to actually “pay” for the keepsakes, maybe they will be content with what they get.