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Be sure to include sentimental items in an estate plan

When some individuals decide to make an estate plan, they just pay attention to their largest assets. Who gets the family home? What happens to the vacation home or the cabin? How do they divide their investment portfolio or a substantial bank account? They focus on passing large assets or amounts of money to the next generation.

But for smaller items, they may assume that their adult children and other beneficiaries can sort it all out on their own. This assumption can lead to serious conflicts and even estate disputes.

The role of sentimental items

The issue is that many of these smaller items may not have the same financial value, but they have much more sentimental value. Examples include artwork, dish collections, book collections, jewelry, clothing items and much more.

If these items are not addressed in the estate plan, beneficiaries may argue about who should receive which ones. Two people may both claim that they thought they were supposed to get a certain item – or that their parents even verbally stated that the item was for them – and there’s no way to resolve this dispute after their parents have passed away.

In other situations where there’s a conflict of ownership, it’s common to sell the item and divide the money. But this doesn’t work if the conflict is over sentimental value. If the item was sold, not only would the family members not receive much money for it, but the actual item that each person wanted would be entirely lost. An item could be worth almost nothing to the public and still be very important to specific family members. 

With family heirlooms, inventive legal solutions are often needed. It’s quite important to keep this in mind when doing estate planning or going through the probate process.

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