Home for the holidays? It is our most sincere wish that you are planning and enjoying a wonderful holiday season with friends and family. The holidays certainly bring to mind special occasions with our loved ones. And our uniquely decorated surroundings help us appreciate our treasured heirlooms and traditions, which we want to ensure remain within our circle of family and friends.
As an estate planner, part of my obligation of service to my clients is to ensure that we fully discuss and plan for the transition of important heirlooms and possessions. In any estate planning meeting, we will discuss particular property items or real estate that are valuable to you, and I will help you plan for those particular items’ transfer during or after your lifetime.
There is a common misconception about estate planning that one need only focus on securing traditional assets, such as financial holdings and real estate, where the bulk of an estate’s value commonly resides, and that the fate of specific, tangible possessions (especially those with little monetary value) can be decided informally by beneficiaries on an ad-hoc basis. I strongly discourage my clients from taking this strategy, as it is often cherished family heirlooms, such as great-grandpa’s antique German clock, mom’s wedding ring, family photo albums – that exert the most powerful pull on family members’ sentiments and emotions. Because of this, it is critical that you plan for these cherished items’ futures with your loved ones and your estate planner.
Indeed, if you have the type of family where conflict during collective decision-making is easily triggered, you should not be afraid to predetermine which items are of the greatest value to your loved ones. While such matters can be emotional and delicate, it is far better to preemptively contend with them, and avoid a situation where your loved ones fight bitterly over valuable items such as your military service medals or antique jewelry pieces.
Even if you feel it is unlikely that any of your possessions will themselves be sources of conflict, it may be important to you that some your treasured possessions pass on to those who value them as much as you do. It would be a shame to bequeath your collection of rare manuscripts or chinaware to someone who appreciates them for their cash value, rather than their inherent aesthetic or historical value. Having these discussions with your family and friends, and making provisions for your valued possessions with your estate planner can help mitigate these issues, once you are gone.