Estate plans often don’t include sentimental items. These day-to-day objects can cause some of the worst arguments among survivors. A photograph, dads’ baseball mitt, or mom’s Bible can sometimes have greater sentimental value than we realize. In addition, it can be tricky to determine what is fair, when dividing personal items. So, how do you prevent fighting over personal property?
The wisest path on such decisions about personal property is to talk with heirs, while you are still alive and in good health.
Ask your adult children what they might want and why and ask what other family members should have and why.
You might discover, for instance, that your adult daughter thinks her brother should inherit their dad’s baseball glove because they were the ones who played catch. You might be left with the New Kids On The Block CDs because you are the music aficionado.
The other big plus for discussing personal property is that the would-be beneficiaries can have the opportunity to hear stories and memories that are connected to these gifts. You can even write the stories down. Here are some other questions to consider:
- Do you want to include in-laws in the decision-making?
- What happens to personal items, if a parent remarries?
- When is the best time to begin the actual transfer (the worst time is right after a funeral when family members are not at their best)?
Take the time to address those items you know your family will treasure. Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about how to prevent fighting over personal property. The attorney may suggest you draft what is known as a “personal property memorandum.” It is a list of items and the people selected to inherit them. You should mention the existence of the document in your will, but the memo can be changed as often as you want without having to update your will.
If you are interested in reading more about personal property, please visit our previous posts.
Reference: Wall Street Journal (May 3, 2021) “You Don’t Want Your Heirs to Fight Over Your Assets? Here’s What to Do Now”