Estate plans often don’t include sentimental items. These day-to-day objects can cause some of the worst arguments among survivors, says The Wall Street Journal’s recent article entitled “You Don’t Want Your Heirs to Fight Over Your Assets? Here’s What to Do Now.”
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 assign a value to a banged-up saxophone that several family members might want or your collection of NKOTB (New Kids On The Block) music?
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 NKOTB 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)?
You can also ask an experienced estate planning attorney to 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.
Reference: Wall Street Journal (May 3, 2021) “You Don’t Want Your Heirs to Fight Over Your Assets? Here’s What to Do Now”