My grandmother died 40 years ago and all of her jewelry went to her only daughter, my Aunt Susan. My grandmother had two granddaughters: myself and my cousin Beth. My aunt has given most of grandmother’s jewelry to her own daughter, but has now started to give away the remaining jewelry to her own granddaughters. These young ladies never met grandma and I feel left out.
While I think it’s 100% right that my Aunt Susan inherited the jewelry I can’t help but feel upset that different pieces are going to other members of the family without even offering me the chance to have these sentimental pieces. Now my cousin Beth is starting to give the pieces away to her two daughter’s in-law.
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Do I say something? Is this practice normal? The reason I have to ask my Aunt Susan: My dad didn’t receive any of the jewelry because he is male. Shouldn’t they offer the pieces to me as grandma’s only other granddaughter before they give away anything else? I’ve told them I’d like to have any pieces that they personally don’t use.
Money is not an issue in this instance as both my aunt and cousin are quite well to do and the pieces are not particularly valuable just sentimental.
Jane in San Diego
Your father may have decided against receiving any of your grandmother’s jewelry. Maybe he felt under pressure by the social conventions of the time and, despite having his eye on a trinket or two for his own daughters. If your grandmother’s estate was correctly administered, however, your father and his siblings should have received an equal amount of assets. Jewelry is part of the estate and should be distributed to legal heirs along with other belongings under probate.
Here’s how it works: “After the will is read, the executor must inventory and gather the assets of the estate,” according to EHTC, a firm of CPAs and business consultants based in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Appraisals may be needed for items of value, such as jewelry. An estate bank account is opened up by the executor, who also obtains a tax ID number. The various accounts of the deceased person are then transferred to the account.”
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That’s not always the case. Sometimes relatives use keys to gain access to a deceased family member’s property because they believe certain pieces were promised to them. Or some items have such sentimental value, they decide they deserve it. “Before the will is even read, furniture, jewelry, artwork and other items may disappear,” EHTC adds. “Cash around the home may be grabbed. In some cases, trash bags of stuff are hauled away.”
You could ask your aunt for a piece that means a lot to you, but assuming the estate was divided equally, that’s her inheritance, not yours and not your father’s. But your letter raises an interesting point. As one member of this column’s Facebook Group wrote: “After reading this, I may pick out a couple of things for my grandsons to pass on to the ladies in their lives, including their daughters and granddaughters.” So your letter may help others.