Many families use rules to ease decision making. Rules in general create structures that help families to function. Some specific rules may provide guidance for decisions about dividing family resources. For instance, if a family is confronted with an inheritance without specific assignments, as in a will that states generally that the possessions should be divided among the children, a system of rules can be useful in dividing the estate. A system of rules for this situation could be as follows: heirs would alternate in choosing something they wished to keep. If someone else wanted what had been chosen they could offer to trade, but the first person has the right of refusal. This process guides decision making by providing a system to which all of the family agrees. Sometimes parents use rules like this when they instruct one child to divide a treat like a pie and then allow the second child first choice among those portions.
Rules may also structure decision-making discussions. For example, some families maintain rules about equal participation in a decisionmaking conversation. They will not come to a decision until all family members involved have an approximately equal say about the topic. Some families have a rule specifying that each member of the family has to say something before a decision can be reached. Other families have rules setting time limits for the process and a decision has to be reached when the time has lapsed.