When you think of estate planning, it is important to recognize that your estate involves more than your money, your house, and your valuable personal property. There may be certain invaluable personal property that you consider to be family heirlooms which should not be overlooked. Those heirlooms have sentimental value that you simply cannot put a price on. Part of proper estate planning requires determining how you want those priceless family heirlooms distributed after your death. Our Los Angeles probate attorneys can help you make sure those assets are not overlooked.
Instructions regarding your family heirlooms need to be specific and put in writing
Many families discuss their feelings or expectations regarding certain family heirlooms or personal belongings before it becomes an issue, but the reality is, those feelings could change. For example, your son may tell you now that he has no problem with your daughter inheriting the family pearls. After he gets married, he may change his mind, wanting instead to give that heirloom to his new wife. Another reality to consider is that people’s memories fade over time. For that reason, it is important to memorialize your wishes. While you don’t necessarily need to specifically bequeath each one of your personal belongings to someone specific, the meaningful or sentimental bequests should be detailed in writing. This also helps to avoid probate disputes.
Consider having your heirlooms appraised
The term “heirloom” basically refers to a specific piece of personal property that has been passed done from one generation to the next or that you intend to pass down through the generations. Our Los Angeles probate attorneys recommend that you first determine the value of such an item by having it appraised by someone reputable. The type of professional you will need to perform an appraisal will depend on the type of object at issue. For example, antique dealers, fine art dealers, and historical or rare book dealers have the necessary expertise to give you an accurate appraisal of the value of your property.
The benefits of a personal property memo
One way you can express your wishes and avoid a dispute over a family heirloom while keeping the matter confidential is by using a personal property memo. This instrument is essentially a written statement about specific personal property that is referred to in the last will and testament and identifies who should receive a certain piece of personal property. A personal property memo can be used to keep an inheritance confidential and outside of the probate proceedings. It can also be revised or modified without having to execute a new will.
Options for achieving equitable distribution of heirlooms
It is not uncommon for our Los Angeles probate attorneys to have clients with a variety of heirlooms with different monetary value. When there is more than one heir, this can make it difficult to distribute the heirlooms equally. There are a few options you can consider. If you already have an idea about how you want to divide them up, you can discuss this with your heirs ahead of time. If they agree with your choices, then they are less likely to dispute the distribution later on.
Another option is to include terms that require your heirs to divide the heirlooms between themselves by agreement. If they cannot reach an agreement on a specific item, then your executor can make the final decision. Some clients choose to have their heirs draw lots and choose the heirlooms in equal shares. If there are any inequalities, they can be remedied through cash payments. Finally, your executor can hold a silent auction.
Consider including a “No Contest Clause”
In some states, testators can include what is referred to as a “No Contest Clause” in their will. A No Contest Clause effectively discourages heirs from contesting inheritances because doing so would mean they are no longer entitled to receive any portion of the inheritance. Essentially, no one wants their loved ones to waste time arguing over their personal property. But, if you plan ahead, with the assistance of one of our Los Angeles probate attorneys, you can avoid some issues that can arise when it comes time to distribute inheritances, including family heirlooms.
Join us for a free seminar today! If you have questions regarding estate planning, trust contests, or any other trust administration issues, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us in Los Angeles at (310) 337-7696, and in Orange County at (562) 346-3209.
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