Family Heirlooms Causing a Family Feud? Three Ground Rules for Dividing Up a Loved One’s Estate

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Only 42% of Americans have a will. Even then, the common phrase “. . .and all other property to be divided equally among my heirs” is likely to cause problems. Angie Epting Morris, author of The Settlement Game ( offers three ground rules for those who find themselves playing The Settlement Game.

“I hope I get the piano.”

While few people want to think about what will happen to their parents' stuff when they die, most have a few items they hope will be theirs, “in the will.” However, according to a recent survey, only 42% of Americans have a will.

Even then, the common phrase “. . .and all other property to be divided equally among my heirs.” is likely to cause problems.

“When each item in an estate is not clearly assigned in a will, the heirs often find themselves in an emotionally charged situation trying to get everything divided,” says Angie Epting Morris, author of “The Settlement Game: How to Settle an Estate Peacefully and Fairly” (Voyages Press, Inc., “The best thing to do at that point is to quickly establish some ground rules for getting through it.”

According to Morris, who came together with her three siblings to divide their parents' estate using The Settlement Game, these ground rules include:


Determine the players. Only the immediate beneficiaries of the deceased should be involved. No grandchildren, no spouses, no other relatives or outside influences.


Commit to a common goal of achieving a peaceful and fair settlement. Starting off with this agreement may sound simple, but it is the foundation of the rest of the process and will undoubtedly prove useful.


Agree not to remove anything from the premises until it can be run through The Settlement Game.

Once all players know these three rules; Morris recommends that you get organized. “If you can stay organized as you go through this, you'll have a much better chance to keep your family from feuding,” encourages Morris.

If you are facing an estate settlement (and you are, whether you want to admit it or not) find the “3 Causes of Conflict in an Estate Settlement and What to do About Them” at .


Angie Epting Morris, creator of “The Settlement Game”

Angie Epting Morris grew up hearing stories from her father, an attorney, of how families interacted when dividing up the valuables of the deceased. Faced with settling the estate of her parents, she became her own story, with a happy ending. Settling the estate, Morris and her siblings became better friends.

Angie received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Georgia and was a professional cartographer for the Department of Agriculture. She taught high school English and geography, then opened Morris Travel agency in Augusta. She and her husband Carter split their time between the Augusta area and Big Canoe, Georgia. They have two grown sons, Hunter and Taylor.

The Settlement Game: How to Settle an Estate Peacefully and Fairly

Voyages Press, Inc.


ISBN: 0-9769934-2-2



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