There is more than money that goes into an estate plan. A lawyer might explain to you that often the biggest source of hurt feelings and family disputes arises from sentimental items. Before you draft your will or trust, make sure to give some thought to photos, antiques, art, jewelry, the family Bible, and so forth.


To talk with a lawyer about your estate planning needs, call Sweeney Legal.


How can I leave items of sentimental value to family members?


Depending on your own preferences, you can leave sentimental items in your will or trust or distribute them while you are alive. By acting now you can talk with your loved ones to find out what they may and may not want. You might be surprised about their wishes. Furthermore, you can take pleasure in watching your recipients enjoy the generous gifts. It could even stimulate conversations, stories, and inspiration for the younger generations. Those who receive your items might also have questions about where it came from, who owned it, and why it is significant. You might be the only one who can answer these questions. Finally, you can choose whether or not to explain why you made the decisions you did; thereby, alleviating any anxiety or tension between the recipients.


Your Will and Trust


Even if you talk with your beneficiaries about what they might inherit, you will need to legally arrange for the transfer of property. An estate planning lawyer may ask you to name an executor for your will or a trustee for your trust. This person will be in charge of distributing all of your assets to the right people.


If you want certain items to go to any specific person, this should be specified in your will. It is not advisable to leave a will that says something like “All of my belongings should be equally distributed between my four children.” This could cause a dispute. Although you don’t have to cover every single item, you should be detailed about those that have the most monetary or sentimental value.


Many states allow you to include a Property Memorandum in the will. This is a document that lets you list items and name who will inherit them. Money and intangible property cannot be included in this legally binding document. The benefit of a Property Memorandum is that it can be updated very easily and without having to go through various formalities or amendments. A lawyer can help you to create this document.


Creative Ways to Divide Your Sentimental Items


There are many ways to divide sentimental items up in a will. Some examples include:


  • Ask the children to take turns in selecting one item until each has chosen items of equal value.
  • Ask the executor to distribute the items as they see fit.
  • Hold a random drawing of the items.


For more suggestions, you can talk with your estate planning lawyer.


Understanding the Letter of Instruction


If your state does not allow you to include a property memorandum in your will, and you don’t want to go into extensive detail, you can include a letter of instruction. This is not legally binding, but can help to prevent an argument. If in the event a dispute arises, the letter of instruction can have an impact on any decision made by the court.

If you are ready to consult a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer, call Sweeney Legal.