Fighting Over Sentimental Value

Thinking about, let alone planning for, your eventual passing is not something that any of us really want to do, but it is necessary.

Everyone thinks about who they want to leave the car, house, investments, and other monetarily valuable assets to, but, who gives a thought to Dad’s old flannel shirt and fire poker or Mom’s crochet hooks? To be honest, not many of us. But to some beneficiaries, these items are more valuable than all the money you have amassed.

Sometimes it isn’t the monetary items, and how they are divided, that cause heartache among the beneficiaries. Sometimes it is your favorite baseball hat or the pair of gloves and hat you wore every day in the garden that causes a rift in families that were so close prior to a death in the family.

This is probably the most difficult, and most sensitive, area of estate planning.

How do you settle these disputes before they rear their ugly heads? How can you know what will be more valuable to one beneficiary than another?

To help everyone know what you want done with specific items, make a detailed list of things that you hold dear and spell out in a memorandum that is to be included with the will what should happen with those items, or, perhaps, you could dictate that everything is to be sold at auction, giving everyone the right to bid on their favorite items.

If you think leaving something to a specific person my cause trouble, another possibility is to add a clause in the will that states if anyone contests the will, they will lose all rights of possession.

As in most cases, open and honest communication during the preparation of your estate planning documents may lead to the best outcomes for everyone involved. If no one else, your attorney should be aware of what your wishes are so they can help your executor and beneficiaries through a very difficult time.

Even the best laid plans don’t always work out the way we intend. Talking to the beneficiaries of your estate before it is too late to do so, and telling them how you want to divide up the sentimental items may help. Be prepared to hear "I don’t want to talk about this." No one does, but to prevent future heartaches, it needs to be done.

Estate planning is never an easy thing to do, and to try to figure out how to divide those sentimental items is even harder. Communication, above all, is the best way to figure it all out.