Many people take the time to develop a comprehensive estate plan that focuses only large, valuable assets. The documents of the plan might center on a family business, vacation properties, a vehicle collection or other tremendously valuable assets. Unfortunately, in the rush to preserve these assets, individuals run the risk of forgetting to include sentimental properties.
Real estate, retirement funds, artwork or other valuable collections might take center-stage in an estate plan. It is wise, however, to take some time to identify small, tangible assets that have more sentimental value than a cash equivalent.
Why are these items important?
While one main reason to develop a comprehensive estate plan is to clarify end-of-life decisions centering on the distribution of large assets, people instinctively create these documents to avoid future disputes. Surviving heirs whether they are family members or close friends often see meaning and value in certain items that might escape your attention.
A piece of jewelry, for example, or a paperweight could represent times of joy in the relationship such as an internship at the family business or a meaningful party occasion. Individuals might overlook these items when drafting a will. Additionally, there are sentimental items that represent a family history. A Bible that has passed through numerous generations, for example, or a collection of photo albums could be gathering dust on a bookshelf, but they could hold incredible sentimental value to a family member.
The inclusion of a personal property memorandum
Many individuals counter potential trouble by including a personal property memorandum in their estate plan. This is generally a separate list of personal items that includes the desired distribution. As people create it separate from a will or trust, the memorandum can be quickly edited to account for changes in relationships or the death of a beneficiary. State laws often vary on the rules and regulations surrounding the inclusion of a personal property memorandum, so it is wise to seek the guidance of a legal professional when making these decisions.
Unfortunately, overlooking sentimental property can lead to family disputes and serious debates regarding the distribution of assets. Even though people design the estate plan to avoid just such a problem, leaving out sentimental property can create the very argument it tried to dissolve. It is important to avoid vague language and consider numerous contingencies when developing a comprehensive estate plan.