The executor, the person who manages an estate when there is a will, while an administrator, the person appointed by the court to manage an estate when there isn't a will, is responsible for dividing the deceased's personal belongings, including her jewelry. Dividing jewelry among siblings may be difficult if the deceased didn't leave instructions, but there are some things an executor or administrator can do to avoid arguments with inheriting siblings.
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According to Will
If the will left specific instructions for pieces of jewelry, the executor must follow those instructions first. For example, if a deceased grandmother left her wedding ring to her granddaughter in the will, the wedding ring belongs to the granddaughter. The executor is responsible for getting a signed release from the granddaughter that indicates she got the ring and filling the release with the probate court handling the grandmother's estate. An executor only divides jewelry not specifically left to a person in the will.
Dividing by Value
If the will left all the deceased's personal possessions to siblings without giving instructions for specific items, the executor must divide the jewelry among siblings equally. The executor should have all jewelry appraised by a professional jeweler or appraisal service and uses the value the jewelry pieces to give each sibling an amount of jewelry equal to their her share. For example, if a mother left two rings and one necklace for her son and daughter, when the appraisal determines the rings are worth $100 each and the necklace is worth $200, the executor can give the rings to the daughter and the necklace to the son. This way, both children receive $200 worth of jewelry. An administrator, like an executor who doesn't have jewelry division instructions, divides jewelry among the heirs by appraised value.
Dividing by Request
Dividing jewelry is often more difficult if the siblings want specific pieces for sentimental reasons. The executor still must have the jewelry appraised, as each beneficiary is entitled to an equal share. He may take the appraisal list and meet with the siblings to discuss who will receive what. If one sibling agrees to take jewelry worth less because of personal reasons or to please another sibling, the executor has to give that sibling more of the other personal possessions to make up the difference in value. Ultimately, it is the executor who is distributing the estate and he must decide who gets what if the siblings can't agree. He may try to fulfill requests and get siblings to agree to avoid problems, but he has the authority to divide the jewelry as he sees fit, as long as each sibling gets their fair share.
An executor may have to sell items when family members can't reach and agreement. For example, if the siblings all want the same piece of jewelry, he may sell the item and split the proceeds equally among the siblings. An executor shouldn't remove jewelry from its location or allow any other parties to remove jewelry before he decides how to divide the items unless he's doing so for safekeeping. If an executor must move jewelry for safekeeping reasons, he should tell the family members before he moves it. The executor should check the deceased's papers to confirm she didn't leave instructions behind for jewelry division. She may have left a list regarding the division, but didn't make the list part of the will, giving the executor flexibility. Although the executor doesn't have to follow the list if it wasn't part of the will, showing the family members how the deceased wanted the jewelry divided may make problem items easier to settle.