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Reduce conflict in Colorado probate: Address personal property

An ad for luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe states, "You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation." This leads to the question - how do you gift valuable personal possessions through an estate plan?

The focus of estate planning is often real estate, investments, life insurance policies, but disputes during probate frequently relate to personal property. Remember a watch can have both monetary and sentimental value to loved ones. The division of personal effects is a major cause of family conflict, according to research.

What can you do to avoid conflict?

The Colorado Probate Code allows tangible personal property to be distributed according to a written statement. A will must first authorize this procedure. Then you can draft a list and change it occasionally without the need for witnesses or notaries.

The statement needs to describe with some certainty the item - a Patek Philippe watch with a brown leather band - and who should get it. You may want to include a value estimate. The accounting must be in the your handwriting or signed.

In your will, you can also provide default instructions for items not included on the list. For instance, you could gift all remaining personal property to a surviving spouse or Goodwill.

Another option is to sell the property and have any proceeds distributed between children or other loved ones. Leaving the distribution of personal effects to the discretion of a personal representative can keep the peace as well.

Overlooking personal property in the estate planning process could lead to family discord down the road.

Source: The Gazette, "Don't forget personal property in estate planning," Jim Flynn, June 9, 2015

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