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Small Sentimental Items Often at the Heart of Estate Battles

Bigstock-Vintage-brass-telescope-on-ant-44347372Take a walk around your home with your kids, and talk about the possessions that hold meaning to them. Planning ahead for how their favorite items are distributed may prevent family squabbles during a difficult time, when emotions run high.

You might think that disputes over million dollar bank accounts would be at the source of all estate battles.  However, very often, the biggest fights result when more than one person has always wanted the figurine you bought on a family trip for less than ten dollars.

This is according to a recent CNBC article, “7 ways that cheap Tweety Bird figurine can screw up your estate.” It lists some of the major mistakes that people make when bequeathing their personal property.

Failing to appreciate sentimental value. Fights can arise from property with little financial value but great sentimental value. That could be the Barry Manilow albums and your high school letter jacket. Ask your kids and other family for a list of sentimental items they'd want to receive. You can then decide who gets what. You should add those bequests in your will. It may be helpful to also include pictures of the items.

Oral bequests. Put any promised bequests in writing. Otherwise, you are just facilitating disagreements between members of your family.

Asking heirs to distribute. Distributing the bequests is your job, not your heirs'. It's risky to assume they’ll do what you want.

Mistaking ownership with access. With a safe deposit box, you need to be clear in your will who will receive the contents. Remember that a jointly-leased safe deposit box doesn't always mean joint ownership. It also doesn’t give an heir official access to the box contents as a signatory.

Failing to designate any unusual property. Remember to include things like digital assets in any property inventory. This can include reward program balances and social media accounts. Another much-litigated issue is unused reproductive assets like embryos: your will should state ownership and rights of use.

Some possessions are complicated. Illegal contraband is considered an asset, even if it can only be sold on the black market. It is still taxable and fair market value must be reported. Firearms may be subject to state and federal laws, and are often transferred through the use of “gun trusts.” Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure that these more complex assets are handled properly.

Reference: CNBC (October 10, 2017) “7 ways that cheap Tweety Bird figurine can screw up your estate”

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