Estates are comprised of many different assets including homes, bank accounts [Bank of America, Union Bank and others], life insurance [Farmers, State Farm and others], and personal property such as jewelry, artwork, cars, and boats. Sometimes what causes the most squabbles among family members after a death is not the real property or cash but such things as jewelry, collectibles, or other items of strictly sentimental value such as grandma’s ring or grandpa’s gun.
Unless you have left specific instructions as to your personal property in your will or trust, usually it will be divided equally among your beneficiaries. But what is equally? How do you value a family heirloom? As an example, Rosa Parks (who you may remember started the civil rights movement in 1955 when she refused to surrender her seat on a bus to a white rider) had in her estate china that was used when she dined with then President Clinton. How does one determine the value of that particular piece of Wedgwood china? What about Grandma’s ring? Something that may be priceless to a beneficiary because of its sentimental value may be worthless in terms of its appraised value. What if two or more beneficiaries want the same item and won’t budge?
If you have specific items of personal property that you want to give to particular people upon your death, you can make specific bequests in your will or trust. Usually however, people have too many items of personal property to list them all in their will or trust. Or they may acquire other personal property after they execute their will or trust or want to change their mind at some point about certain gifts.
To minimize any potential family squabbles, consider making specific bequests of valuable property in your will or trust. You also can include in your estate planning documents a Personal Property Memorandum which lists the intended recipients of your various items of personal property and should be a part of any trust package. At Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation, our estate planning attorneys can assist you with issues relating to disposition of personal property upon your death or with any other estate planning issue. Call or e mail us for a complimentary consultation.