Sentimental items defy the normal logic of estate planning. Traditionally, the goal has been to consider the monetary value of each asset and divide things equally to avoid disputes. For instance, a parent who has $600,000 in investments and three children may keep things simple by leaving $200,000 to each.
The same basic logic can be applied to homes, cars, businesses and other high-value assets. But the problem comes when you consider personal items and family heirlooms, as the sentimental value does not always fit neatly into this equation.
Don’t leave your heirs without a plan
First off, you do need to add these items to your estate plan. They may seem small, or you may think your heirs can just decide who wants them, but this often leads to disputes. If two heirs both think that you wanted a specific item to go to them, how do they actually know your wishes without a mention in the estate plan?
When disputes do happen, it’s hard to resolve. Sentimental values can massively outweigh the real values of some items. A necklace, a picture or a piece of artwork may have no true value and selling it may only bring in a very modest amount of money. But the value to the heir who loves that item is tremendous. They would also be very unhappy with the option of selling the item and splitting the money since they didn’t care about the value. They wanted that particular item that was important to them.
Whether you are doing your estate planning or working your way through a dispute, it’s important to know what legal options you have.