Estate Planning Tips That Prevent Family Feuds

When I was a girl, my mother enjoyed needlework. She would painstakingly sew for hours, crafting beautiful pieces like the one in the image above.

My husband thinks that piece of needlepoint is a bit old fashioned, but I love it. For years it hung in the living room of my parents’ house, welcoming me home from school each day. To me, it represents my mother’s hard work, creativity and attention to detail. Just looking at it brings back wonderful memories of my childhood.

Because she knew how much I admired it, my mother gave it to me several years ago. It now hangs over a gentleman’s chest in my bedroom where I can see it every day. It has very little monetary value, but priceless sentimental value. It is something I will always treasure.

Sentimental Items Can Be a Source Of Conflict After the Death of a Relative

When people plan their estates, they often take great care in planning for the disposition assets with significant financial worth, such as their homes, 401Ks, IRAs, jewelry and valuable pieces of art. But it’s typically the items that hold sentimental value for many family members that creates the most conflict after the death of a loved one.

For example, Deborah L. Jacobs’ article “Little Things Can Cause Big Fights When a Relative Dies” explains how three siblings fought over a glass bowl that their grandmother owned. The bowl was not a valuable antique, but rather a free gift their grandmother had received when she purchased a package of store-bought Christmas pudding.

However, the bowl had sentimental value for all the children because their grandmother used this bowl to serve them breakfast when they slept over at her house.  The siblings’ mother, who now has the bowl, has actually considered burying it to avoid any conflict that may arise when she dies.

Estate Planning Tips That Prevent Family Fueds

If you are concerned that certain pieces of tangible property could be the source of conflict after you die, there are several steps you can take to minimize the changes of that occurring. In her article, Jacobs offers the following tips on how disposing of tangible items with sentimental value:

  1. Talk to your family members about what items hold special sentimental value for them. Include a memorandum with your will directing who should receive each item when you die. Or consider giving them the property during your lifetime, like my mother did.
  2. While you’re still alive, have family members write their names on the bottom of the items they would like.
  3. If you have numerous family members and only one or two valuable possessions, direct that an independent executor sell those pieces and divide the proceeds among your family members.  A family member who can afford to purchase the piece can buy it from the estate.
  4. Make a specific gift of property with sentimental value in your will. That way, there will not be a question about who should receive that item.

To read Deborah Jacobs article “Little Things Can Cause Big Fights When a Relative Dies” click on the link.

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