Great-grandma’s favorite necklace….Grandpa’s monogrammed cuff links…your favorite family portrait. Who will inherit these treasured items after you’re gone? If you have children, chances are that your Will leaves all of your “personal effects” to your children in equal shares as they shall agree, or something along those lines. If you do not have children, perhaps you wish to leave these things to your nieces or nephews, siblings, or a certain dear friend. But how will they be distributed? Who will decide who gets what when two people want the same item?
When preparing an estate plan, people tend to focus on the “big” things – house, cash, stocks, and retirement plans. However, it is important to also provide for those personal items that are not necessarily worth a lot of money, but carry great sentimental value, so that your family can cherish those memories instead of fighting each other until those memories are destroyed. A little thought, some open discussion with your family, and careful planning and documentation can go a long way in preventing family conflicts and hurt feelings later.
Consider what will happen. Personal items may be difficult to value monetarily, but they may have significant sentimental value to more than one of your children or others whom you have named. For example, they cannot agree on which of them should take the collection of little porcelain poodles that sat on Grandma’s side table during their childhood. These poodles are worth next to nothing if sold, but they bring back childhood memories to several of her grandchildren. To some, these memories, and pink poodles, are worth fighting for, even if the cost of doing so is thousands of dollars, months in court, and the destruction of family relationships.
Instead, you could discuss with your family what might be special to each of them. Then, either give them those items now so that you can see them enjoy them, or clearly list those specific gifts in your estate planning documents or in a specific type of addendum to your documents. You may also consider including in your Will or Trust a process, or a final decision-maker, to manage any disagreements.
This is just one of the many considerations we discuss with our clients in designing their estate plan. We strive to help our clients prepare estate planning documents that reflect their wishes, minimize expenses, and hopefully prevent family disputes.
Call Kelleher + Holland, LLC today to schedule a free consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys to begin the discussion.