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Personal property: Oversight can lead to conflict

What do a collection of Christmas ornaments, hand-written recipe cards, a set of Flow Blue china, a grandfather clock or a piece of costume jewelry have in common? They may carry sentimental value. 

Many couples overlook these items during the estate planning process, because they are rarely "worth" much. But any of these items could be very important to a family member because you collected it or created it.

Ask questions

Fights that destroy relationships and lead to costly, drawn out probate litigation often relate to sentimental personal property. How does this problem happen? Maybe a casual conversation about something seemed like a promise. Siblings may both remember clearly they were promised a wrought iron stand made by a grandfather.

Have the conversations and ask questions. You can ask children or other family for a list of the sentimental items they would like to have. Then follow up by writing down who gets what. You can add these details in your will along with pictures of the most important items.

Avoid template provisions

Boilerplate provisions in form wills can cause issues. A bequeath of authority to a personal administrator to distribute personal property might put this trusted person in a tough position.

In one case, a man left his second wife all personal property with the assumption that she would give certain heirlooms to children from his first marriage. The couple was in a car accident. He died first and she died the next day. Because of this provision in the will, the husband's personal property transferred to the wife and then to her heirs. Stepsiblings sold many of the heirlooms on eBay.

To avoid issues, you need a tailored estate plan created for you personally by an experienced estate planning and probate attorney who is able to identify the red flags. Protect your loved ones and family relationships by taking the time to put a plan in place.

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