Sentimental Value: It's what is so special about that childhood blanket, grandmother's wedding ring, the family Bible, and countless other items you own. It can also play a very divisive role in handling your estate. So how do you make sure the sentimental value isn't tarnished by family fighting?
Option 1: You can tell your kids who gets what and hope for the best. This may work for families that get along well. Unfortunately, grief sometimes brings out the worst in people, and relationships suffer as a result. To avoid these issues, it's best to ensure that your wishes are stated clearly.
Option 2: You can include each item specifically in your last will and testament or living trust. This is called a specific bequest, and clients often ask us about it. A specific bequest works well for some types of property, such as a home that is left to a surviving spouse; but sometimes specific bequests can create problems. If what you own changes over time, specific bequests may result in the need to restate your will or living trust. Specific bequests may even result in one or more of your kids not receiving an inheritance or fighting over the remaining things they feel should have been left to them.
Option 3: You can ask your estate planning attorney to include a personal property memorandum to be kept with your will or living trust. This is a very simple form that allows to add what you want to be given to whom. The advantage of a personal property memorandum its flexibility. You can change, add, or remove items without hiring a lawyer to update your will or living trust repeatedly. Although a personal property memorandum technically is not binding, it is the usual practice for executors and trustees to follow them.
Whether you use specific bequests, a personal property memorandum or both, your will should always contain a provision that leaves the rest of your property to the heirs of your choosing. This is called the “residuary clause,” and it is usually advisable to have most of the property pass through this provision.
You should always consult with a lawyer who drafts wills and trusts to determine the best way to plan for your specific situation. Some things, like the cost of long-term care, can wreak havoc on an estate plan that isn't built to withstand them. The Ladd Firm can help you evaluate and avoid many potential pitfalls to keep your plan running smoothly. To learn more, watch our on-demand webinar or register for a live seminar!