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How to divide up family heirlooms (fairly)

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Insurance policies, bank accounts, houses and motor vehicles may be on a lot of people’s minds when they hear the term “estate dispute,” but it’s often the little things that create the most problem.

Those “little things,” like Dad’s watches or Mon’s diamonds, often have more sentimental value than anything – but they pack a big emotional punch. Everybody wants them, and they’re willing to fight about it.

How do you prevent your family from tearing each other apart over a few family heirlooms? Here are some potential solutions that may allow you to plan ahead and preserve the peace:

First, realize that your heirs may not value what you value

Communication is key to keeping estate disputes from happening, and the first thing you probably need to find out is what everybody actually wants – because you cannot assume you know.Your daughter may have absolutely adored your grandmother’s china 20 years ago, but she may have since developed new tastes. Your son may have loved wearing your grandfather’s cufflinks when he was a teen but could think they’re really old-fashioned today.

The reality is that your kids have probably developed emotional attachments to things you’ve never considered. You may have a lifetime’s collection of things that mean more to you than them, but you might be surprised to learn that it’s your comfy old bathrobe one of them wants the most, while the other wants the charm bracelet you had when you were a girl.

If you’re very lucky, you can simply give each of your heirs what they want. If there are overlaps, you can set those aside and either divide them according to value (so that each person gets a fair deal) or let your heirs each take turns picking what they want. That will force them to prioritize their wants.

Second, you can get creative with some of the items

Finally, there’s nothing wrong with a little creativity. For example, you can arrange things in your will so that your diamond sets are turned into new rings, earrings, tie-tacks or pendants for your children or grandchildren so that everybody gets a piece of your favorite jewelry. That way, nobody has to feel cheated or slighted – and you’ll breathe new life into jewelry that may be outdated, and the pieces will be worn instead of sitting in a box.

Putting together an effective estate plan can be harder than you expect. Experienced legal guidance can help.

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