Dealing with the death of a family member is hard enough when the deceased prepared a crystal-clear will, but when there’s no will to be found it can cause some serious issues. Since recent studies have estimated more than 60% of Americans don’t have a will, this situation is one you might have to deal with one day. Dying without a will doesn’t automatically doom the family to chaos and feuding, if it’s handled correctly.

It’s hard to be right

Just because the deceased told you they wanted to give you some item or money after they pass doesn’t mean they didn’t tell another family member contradictory information at a later date. Anytime you mention a statement you recall them saying, do so with grace, and don’t be surprised if another family member remembers something different.

Include everyone

During the deliberation process, it’s common for a few pack leaders to rise up. While this can ensure the ball keeps moving, you don’t want to exclude people from the process. People are always more likely to accept a decision they don’t agree with if they feel their voice was heard from the start of the process.

Define “fair”

One word that will get thrown around a lot in these situations is, “fair.” You’ll hear statements like, that’s not fair, let’s all try to be fair, or that seems fair to me. The problem is that not everyone has the same idea of what fair means. Some might define it as trying to equally divide everything based on monetary value, others will want to factor in sentimental value, and others might want to divide assets on a needs basis. Get everyone on the same page and things will go much smoother.

Call a Professional

Dealing with this kind of problem isn’t something most people have ever tried to do. Thankfully there are professionals who do this for a living. If things get to a point where you feel the family can’t handle it, call a mediator or estate planning attorney. Either one will be able to guide you through the process and offer some sage advice.