Whether you have a large or small estate, developing an estate plan is the best way to avoid potential conflicts between your family members that could arise after your death. Regardless of the specific inheritance choices you make, simply making those choices and letting your family know what your wishes are will go a long way in preventing conflicts.
One of the best ways to ensure that your family doesn’t end up fighting over what you leave behind is to come up with a plan that specifically addresses personal property. What is personal property? It’s the lifetime of accumulated household knickknacks, family photos, prized heirlooms, or other items that have sentimental and personal value but probably not much of a dollar value. Despite not being worth much money, these types of personal items can easily lead to family conflict if your loved ones cannot agree how to divide them after you are dead.
To head off potential conflicts, you will want to specifically address how to divide personal property in your estate plan. Here are some ideas you should consider.
Allow for discussions, but give your executor the final say.
Some people want to leave it up to their families determine who should receive grandmother’s china, family photos, and similar items. You can allow family members to decide for themselves how they want to distribute your personal items, but you shouldn’t leave it up solely to discussion. You should allow your executor the ability to make final decisions when it comes to distributing this type of personal property. If you don’t do this and your family cannot come to an agreement, it could cause serious problems.
Ask before and make specific gifts.
If you aren’t sure what your family might want, you could always ask before you come to a decision. Ask your children, siblings, and other friends and loved ones what of yours they cherish. You might, for example, give each person the chance to write down the top five heirlooms he or she would like to receive. You can then develop a list and incorporate it into your inheritance plan.
Develop a system.
It’s also a good idea to have a system in place that will allow friends and family to choose personal items. For example, if you are going to transfer all of your personal items to your children, you can have each child pick one item in order of their birth, and then reverse the order. So, if you have three children, you can have the firstborn pick first, then the second, then the third. In the next round, the third-born would pick first, then the second, then the first.