Attachment to a Vintage Necktie

April 18, 2007

The WSJ ran an article today (behind a pay wall) about how divvying up family’s belongings has the potential to ignite family feuds. These items in question are knickknacks that have sentimental value rather than monetary worth to the parties involved.

The article talks about apparently novel strategies to keep peace. Some notable ones:

Family Auctions: Silent auctions, either online or submitting bids to the estate planner. In one example, three siblings set up a private web based auction to bid for their late fathers personal property, including his vintage tie.

Round Robin Strategy: Heirs draw straws and whoever wins gets to pick out items in a particular room. Repeated for each room.

Rotating Possession: If more than one sibling covets an article, the possession of the article rotates every few years.

In all the above strategies, the common thread is a psychological attachment to the items. The solutions all conform to the rule that this attachment needs to be satisfied and ascribe a certain value (either emotional, financial or both) to these items. However, the attachment to these items itself is never questioned. We need to question the assumptions and the thought structure underlying this attachment. Relationships are nurtured not by drawing up elaborate strategies but by “letting go”.

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