Jul 27, 2008

Estate Auctions Online: Avoid Family Strife

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It's classic: grandmother dies, and a formerly happy family dissolves into unhappiness over distributing up her personal property. The problem is that everyone wants that pie plate, special painting, or lemonade pitcher and all the will says is that her children and grandchildren should "divide up the personal property in substantially equal shares."

Deciding who gets what has a tendency to reduce even the most mature of us to four-year olds, squabbling over toys, because there's only one of each treasured thing, and it's just not possible to divide them into pieces.

Now, eDivvyUp, an online auction site, offers a new alternative to what can be a very uncomfortable situation. At eDivvyUp, a family estate manager can register the estate, catalog and photograph the available items, invite the family to participate in the auction, and then (here's the critical thing) assign each family member an equal number of points.

Want that pie plate more than anything? You can bid all 1,000 points and win it, but you won't get anything else in the auction. At the end of the auction, the estate manager's job is to distribute the property to those who won.

Online auctions are not a substitute for the kind of good family communication that may help avoid conflicts in the first place. I'm sure unhappy families would still be able to find something to squabble about (like the auction results). But they might be just the ticket for some families, who can use an online auction to divide up treasured things as fairly as possible.