The EqualShares Method
You're moving into a smaller home and want to give some heirlooms to your kids. Or getting a divorce. Or leaving instructions in your will for the distribution of your personal effects.
And you've got a problem.
How do you decide who gets what? How do you fairly divide things like family photographs or a cherished porcelain collection?
EqualShares.com can help. We explain how to come up with a fair distribution, using a method that's based on mathematics and economics. Here's how it works in its simplest form: You make a list of the property that's to be distributed. Each potential recipient submits a sealed list of bids for the items on the list. The winning bidder for each item gets it, and is "charged" the second highest bid. Any recipient who get more than his or her fair share of the property compensates the other recipients with cash.
This method has several advantages:
In many cases, you can do it yourself for free, without the need for expensive appraisals.
It helps ensure that each item goes to the person who values it the most.
If the property is to be divided into equal shares, it will usually result in an "envy-free" outcome, in which none of the recipients prefers another's share to his or her own.
It works for a broad range of property, including personal effects, heirlooms, cash, financial assets, real estate, and cars.
It can be modified to allow for such things as unequal shares, heirlooms that should stay in the family, charitable donations, the use of estate liquidators, and items that have already been given or promised to someone.
By establishing a set of rules for dividing property, it reduces conflict and resentment, and it frees people from having to figure out how to distribute property in a time of crisis or grief.
It assigns fair values to personal effects that are hard to appraise.
It's fairly immune to treachery and deceit.
It also has some disadvantages:
It requires that all of the recipients be willing and able to compensate the others with cash if they get more than their fair share of the property.
It "commodifies" property that may have sentimental value. An elderly widow, for example, may be hurt to find out that her children think that the quilt she spent months sewing is worth only $15.
We'll tell you later how to eliminate or reduce these disadvantages.
The EqualShares method isn't for everyone. Many families find that they can distribute property fairly among themselves without outside help, and that doing so gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their love, compassion, and generosity. But if you fear that distributing property might cause friction and resentment, this may be the best answer.
Click here for a list of step-by-step instructions. Before going through them, we recommend that you read the Frequently Asked Questions page. Good luck!
EqualShares.com is a non-profit, public service website. The EqualShares method has not yet been widely tested, so users must try it at their own risk.
Go to the step-by-step instructions
Copyright © 2004 Lori Alden. All rights reserved.