Deciding who gets your mother's fine china can strain the closest of family bonds. "I've seen sibling relationships ruined over the distribution of effects," says Victoria Bedford, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Indianapolis.
Steer Clear: Bedford recommends encouraging your parents to set up a will that divides things equally. And if there's no will, Jeremy B. Yorgason, PhD, an assistant professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, suggests letting some time go by before sorting through the estate. Right after a death, emotions run high; if you can wait a few months, you'll be able to deal more rationally and sensitively with each other. Also, when in doubt, use a lottery system. "It's the fairest way to distribute items that can't be easily decided upon," Bedford says.