How to Divide Personal Property Without Dividing Your Family
Allocating your personal possessions can be one of the most difficult tasks when creating an estate plan. To avoid family feuds after you are gone, it is important to have a plan and make your wishes clear.
When passing on possessions to your heirs, savings and investments are easy to divide since they can be turned into cash. Real estate can also be turned into cash or co-owners can share it. The most difficult items to divvy up are personal possession items that are unique and don’t have a set resale value (silverware, dishes, artwork, furniture, tools, jewelry, etc.). In legal speak, these are known as “tangible personal property” and can become the focus of family fights and even irrevocably split families.
Clarity about one’s wishes can go a long way toward avoiding these difficulties. Also, it’s important that the personal representative of an estate (also called an executor) secure the deceased person’s residence as soon as possible after death to make sure items don’t disappear. Here are a few steps you or the personal representative of your estate can take to make sure splitting up your personal possessions doesn’t split up your family:
List the most important or valuable items in your will. While your will could get very long if you tried to list all of your possessions, you may have a few family heirlooms or valuable artworks that you want to stay in the family. It may be easier for all concerned if you say who should get what.
Direct that certain items be sold. If you have one or more possessions that have much greater value than others, it can be difficult to make your distributions equal. It may make more sense to sell the items of greatest value and distribute the proceeds.
Write a memorandum. You can write a list of who should receive what item. If your will references the list, it will be enforceable. Unlike your will, this list can be as long as you like, and you can change it without having to go back and redo your will.
Give items away now. When you make gifts, make sure that everyone knows about it so that the person receiving the gift is not suspected of having pilfered your jewelry box, for instance.
Use a lottery. If you do not make choices regarding your estate plan, your personal representative may want to set up a lottery system for distributing the tangible assets. If everyone is in the same location at the same time, they can simply take turns.
Example: 1,2,3,4,5; 5,4,3,2,1; 1,2,3,4,5
The more you decide who gets what rather than leaving the decisions to your family, the less likely the distribution process will create family strife.
For more information, please contact the Law Office of Sean D. Ethington at (661)295-4604 or visit our website at www.ElderLawSite.com.
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