The Most Important Part of an Estate Plan is the Memories

Most people, when they design their estate plan, think primarily about the large financial assets: Real property, bank accounts, investment accounts, family businesses, etc. But any estate planner will tell you that the most heart-wrenching family rifts and disputes are not over money, but over the little things that end up having little or no monetary value at all.

The family bible, mom and dad’s wedding bands, grandma’s heirloom hope-chest—these are the items that end up costing families more in harsh words, hurt feelings, and legal fees than any expensive property or valuable bank account. This is because these are the items that, although they may have a low financial value, have a high emotional value for families; a fact that many parents or grandparents don’t consider when they’re making out their wills or trusts.

Instead of leaving heirs to decide among themselves (read as: fight among themselves) after your death who gets photo albums, jewelry, furniture and handmade artwork; consider talking to kids and grandkids about this memorabilia and emotional heirlooms right now. Keep in mind that this might not be an easy conversation to initiate. Most kids are reluctant to talk about—or even think about—their parents’ eventual passing; and many parents have found that they have to broach the subject more than once before their kids are willing to talk about it.

Another option is to privately make up your own list of which heirlooms you’d like to go to which heir (in legal terms this is called a Personal Property Memorandum) and then show it to your heirs ahead of time. This gives heirs the opportunity to voice their preferences or concerns while you’re still alive; but in many cases simply knowing that you put time and thought into the giving of each heirloom makes heirs more likely to accept and appreciate your gifts when the time comes to receive them.

Contact our office for more information about how to execute a personal property memorandum, and how it can benefit your heirs and loved ones.

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