A thoughtful distribution of your “stuff” is a gift more valuable than the distribution of any single item. After all, … “The last thing you want when you die is to put your family in a worse situation.”
Although money may not be everything, seemingly valueless items could cause even reasonable and emotionally mature people to fight over what they deem as the unfair distribution of the family’s ‘stuff’. How you split up family heirlooms, whether of priceless or just sentiment value, can start or end fights among even the most loving of families. So how do you plan to fairly spread the relics and keep the peace?
Sure, there are many inheritance fights over dollars and cents. On the other hand, there are even more fights leading to protracted probate battles and just plain old hurt feelings over the disposition of physical goods, relics and family keepsakes. Unfortunately, it can be more difficult to plan for the disposition of these “things” in contrast to cash.
As you begin to think about your estate in this light and figuring out who wants what, consider the insights provided in a recent article in Consumer Reports, aptly titled “How to spare your heirs a battle over your estate.”
Oftentimes, physical items are difficult to split up. For example, you can’t simply tear the painting in half, divide a book, or even realistically split a set of china. In the end, in order to end a debate about which direction an item will go, to one heir or the other, you have to write it out. A will is simply not enough, generally speaking. It is hard to capture the kind of detail needed. Consequently, the matter will go straight into probate.
Thankfully, many states allow you to attach a more informal writing to your will – a document that offers a list of “what” and “to whom”, and is far more easily updated. No one, however, can make the often tough distribution decisions and create the list for you.
This list is one of those many little tasks to take on as part of the overall plan, and one you must keep updating as you acquire or lose this or that asset or family heirloom. This is also a topic worth discussing with your heirs. That way you, and they, will know what things they may want. After all, with heirloom fights it is an emotional connection to an object at the heart of the matter rather than its intrinsic value. Remember, it’s not always about money, because money isn’t everything.
You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.
Reference: ConsumerReport.org (April 2014) “How to spare your heirs a battle over your estate”