When my parents died, my sisters and I split their estate. I chose a painting that may be worth $50,000. Should I tell them?

Dear Moneyist,

After both of my parents died, my sisters and I shared furniture, finances and works of art, etc.

The process of dividing her estate was done fairly and without stress or resentment. Until now.

My parents had a large art collection. One of the images I have chosen may be of great value. I am currently having it assessed for insurance purposes. If the estimated value is $ 50,000 and I later decide to sell or auction it, do I have an obligation to tell my sisters? Should I tell them and offer to split the proceeds?

If I don’t and they somehow find out later, it would cause some bitterness in my opinion. Not so much for the question of money, but for the lack of transparency.

Do you have any advice Thank-you.

I feel a little insecure

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Dear unsure,

If you take the painting for sentimental value and it is hanging on your wall I would say there is a gray area. You can choose whether or not to tell your sisters. You didn’t choose it because you thought it was more valuable than the other works of art in your parents’ collection (assuming it does, but may not). You chose it because you cared about it or because you simply liked it and reminded you of your parents.

But you intend to realize its worth, and the value surprised you. If your parents died 10 or 20 years ago and its value has increased significantly since then, I don’t see a problem with you selling it. It’s your property, after all. But if you recently died and this was a $ 50,000 painting when you decided it would go well with your window treatments, then I think you have an obligation to tell your sisters.

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What happens next is up to them and you. You can sell the painting and split the proceeds any way if your sisters are familiar with it. Or you could tell your sisters and give them another choice: take an inventory of the pieces you all took from your parents’ house and have them valued. Your parents’ collection may contain other valuable items. If there is one, there is probably more.

This underscores the importance of going through the correct procedures when the estate is going through estate and valuation items at this point so that you all know exactly what value you’re walking away with at each. It sounds like there’s no ruse here, hence your letter to me and your conflict over what to do next. But what about the family with an expensive item or two that are claimed for sentimental value and later sold quietly?

Your story is certainly an ethical dilemma – but it is also a cautionary story.

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