Estate planning often focuses on major assets that have a substantial amount of value. These may be purely financial, like a bank account, a retirement account or a life insurance policy. They may also be tangible, such as a small business, a family home or a vacation property.
But it’s also important to address sentimental items if you’re making an estate plan. These often lead to disputes, and they can be more difficult to sort out than more expensive assets.
Conflict between beneficiaries
To see how sentimental value can lead to conflicts, consider a situation where the parent who recently passed away had a specific item they liked to wear. Perhaps the main beneficiaries for an estate are three children, and they all would like their mother‘s favorite necklace. They remember her wearing it as children, it was very special to them, and they want to pass it down through the generations. They view it as a family heirloom.
Since there is only one necklace, all three children cannot own it. It also may turn out that it has no real value – maybe it’s just costume jewelry. The children do not want to sell it for $50 and split up the money; they were never interested in the financial value.
So how do they divide it? If they can’t split it up and they can’t sell it, two of the main tactics used during probate are not possible. This is what makes disputes over sentimental items so contentious and it is why families in this position need to carefully consider their legal options.