A guitar, a recipe book, and a diary: what do these items all have in common? They are among the top ten most common family heirlooms. When it comes to your personal property, deciding how to divide your family heirlooms can be one of the most emotionally challenging aspects of estate planning. How do you determine who will most enjoy a family painting that has been passed down across three generations? The last thing you want to do is to cause a rift amongst the loved ones you leave behind. Do your children or other family members even want any family heirlooms? And if not, what should you do with them instead?
How to Avoid Conflict and Hurt Feelings
There is only one grand piano in your living room, so how do you decide who gets it when you are gone? The first thing to do is ask your loved ones what, if any, particular item stands out in their minds as something they would like to have to remember you by. If more than one person has an interest in any given item, the following methods can work to ease tensions and emotions:
- Ensure that your will details precisely who gets what.
- Try to disperse personal belongings to your children equally if at all possible (if that is your wish).
- Give away heirlooms during your lifetime.
Pass Down Your Values and Your Memories, Not Your Belongings
Your heirs may not actually want to inherit items like porcelain, silverware, or furniture. These objects likely have great sentimental value to you, but they might mean little to your children or grandchildren, who may not have grown up with these objects and do not understand their history. Instead of a fight over who gets what, it may turn into a fight over who gets stuck with the couch.
Many people have more attachment, and place more value, on other heirlooms, such as letters, written family stories, photographs, diaries, videos, handwritten values or life lessons, and audio recordings. Many of these items can be duplicated and distributed to more than one loved one. This comes at little cost and may provide infinitely more joy and heartwarming memories for your family than a dining table or chandelier — objects that certainly have value to you, but possibly not to everyone else.
Part of making an estate plan includes asking your loved ones if they have any interest in a particular item. If they do not, and it has no monetary value, consider having it donated to your favorite charity, and make sure that your loved ones each get a copy of the photos and family history books instead.
A Dedicated Attorney Is a Phone Call Away
An estate planning lawyer can help you with these questions and work with you to draft a will that reflects you and your loved ones’ wishes. Contact a skilled estate attorney in Cherry Hill, NJ today for answers to your questions. Call a law office to schedule a free consultation.
Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into estate planning and family heirlooms.