According to a new study, it’s not money that your heirs want. Instead, what they want has more sentimental than monetary value: heirlooms.
A 2012 study performed by Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America found that 86 percent of baby boomers said “family stories and keeping their legacy alive is the most important piece of their legacy.” Just nine percent of baby boomers said that they were “eager” to inherit money.
Katie Libbe, president of consumer insights for Allianz, explained why people value heirlooms so much: “The things that make your family unique – not money, but stories and personal possessions – those are the most important in the legacy discussion.”
Unfortunately, because heirlooms are so highly prized, they are often the source of family controversy. Money can typically be split pretty evenly, but you can’t exactly split the baby.
When you create your will and estate plan, you should take into account the fact that your heirs will likely care most about heirlooms. To avoid possible conflict over such items, a recent article in MarketWatch provides a few pieces of advice:
Talk with your family. When deciding to whom you want your priceless family trinkets to go, talk with your family members about their preferences. One person might want Grandma’s favorite teacup, while another might want the painting hanging in your living room.
Include a memorandum. Instead of keeping your will very general—“I leave my property to my wife and kids…”—make sure that you outline who gets which items. Also, make sure that you are specific in reference to each item. If you leave, say, your diamond ring to one daughter but you don’t clarify which ring, this could lead to conflict. Of course, it’s unlikely you’ll list every single thing you own. To deal with any leftover items, consider this common tactic: let your family members take turns picking one item (perhaps in order from oldest to youngest). Another option is to have a family auction.
An even simpler way we handle this issue is to give the trustee or executor the power to sell all of the items. Thus, if there is family discord, the executor or trustee can invite everyone to a private auction to buy what they want.
Avoid cultivating conflict. Conflict most frequently occurs when one family member feels slighted. Try to avoid dividing your estate unequally. If you do have a favorite nephew or granddaughter, consider giving him or her gifts while you’re still alive so that your estate plan doesn’t foster hurt feelings.
If you have questions about estate planning, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our experienced Dayton, Ohio, attorneys.