Tangible personal property: plan well to avoid family disagreements

People who provide for their beneficiaries in their estate planning documents generally do a good job with their financial assets but are oftentimes remiss in providing detailed instructions regarding their tangible personal property (ie. household furnishings, jewelry, collections etc…). This is usually due to the erroneous belief that these assets don’t hold much value. However, as estate planners, we regularly see disputes among family members regarding the division of these assets after death, as their sentimental value is oftentimes under-appreciated when one does estate planning.

The holidays are an opportune time to take a sentimental tour with your children and grandchildren. Share stories and explain the significance of your jewelry, artwork, antiques, and other belongings. Sharing the significance behind each item gives the heirlooms meaning and value in the eyes of the recipient. Specifically, you may wish to:

  • Identify specific items that you would like someone to have;
  • Decide when you would like others to receive their something special; 
  • Express your wishes to a family member or the person named as executor of your estate; and
  • Follow-up with language in your Will or other estate planning document to provide a roadmap for the ultimate distributions of these assets.

Your assets do not have to wait until your death to be distributed and enjoyed. However, in the event that you wish to retain your tangible personal property until your death, you should provide detailed instructions as to who you wish to receive your most prized possessions. An estate planning attorney can provide you with the best options as to how best to memorialize your wishes in writing.