Sep 2015

Sweating the “Small Stuff” – How to Avoid Family Fights Over Sentimental Items

Adding Sentimental Items to Your Estate Planning Documents

It seems everyone has heard a heartbreaking story of a family torn apart by arguments over sentimental items left behind by a loved one. Many relatives may get into a conflict over both small and large items not included their loved one’s estate planning process.

Perhaps siblings bicker about who gets old photographs, or cousins disagree about who should receive a set of antique dishes. Although these items may have very little monetary value, their worth is immeasurable to the people left behind after a beloved family member passes away.

Unfortunately, many people fail to plan for the distribution of sentimental items and other personal property during the estate planning process. They may have comprehensive plans regarding their stocks, real estate, retirement assets, and even the family business – but they fail to address all the “little things,” such as photo albums, jewelry, and even clothing. Because these items provide a meaningful link to the deceased’s life, they are often among the most treasured property in the estate.

There are several ways to address sentimental items in the estate planning process. In some cases, it’s ideal to incorporate more than one strategy depending on your property, its value, and what you would like to do with it.

Specific Bequests

You can make specific bequests in your will, which allows you to name specific items and which beneficiary will receive them. If you have a lot of sentimental items, however, it may be time-consuming to list all of them in your estate planning process. It’s also easy to overlook items, especially if you own a lot of sentimental personal property, family heirlooms, or antiques.

Lifetime Gift

For certain items, giving the property away during your lifetime can be a good option. Lifetime gifting works well for property such as photographs, which can be duplicated and distributed to many different people.

Letter of Instruction

Some people choose to include a letter of instruction in their estate planning process, which allows them to set forth specific direction for their personal property. Some people also choose to include an explanation detailing why they chose to leave certain property to specific people. It’s important to note, however, that letters of instruction are not legally binding.

Whatever you decide, planning ahead is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones.

Springfield, Missouri Estate Planning Law Firm

At the Law Offices of Randy L. Smith, LLC, we help people create estate planning documents that provide peace of mind. Call today at (417) 841-2775 to speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer about your case.

This website has been prepared by The Law Office of Randy L. Smith, LLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.