One of the biggest reasons that estate disputes happen is because heirs cannot determine what to do with items that have sentimental value. Often, the estate plan does not offer the clear direction that they need.
This can happen because the parents do not fully grasp the sentimental value. They are more focused on actual high-value assets, like a million-dollar house or an investment portfolio. They believe that arguments are going to happen over wealth, so they make a plan to address it in an attempt to stop those arguments before they begin.
Unfortunately, heirs may end up fighting over everyday items that their parents owned or items they remember from childhood. These are items that parents haven’t added specifically to the plan, just assuming that the children can split up the “odds and ends” as long as the major assets are taken care of. But it often does not go that smoothly.
An example of how conflict arises
Family heirlooms and sentimental items can have a wide range, including personal jewelry, artwork from around the house, and even things like coffee mugs or dish sets.
For instance, say a mother has a box of jewelry and she instructs her daughters to split it up. She may think of it as a collection of random jewelry she has gathered over the years; she may not have worn some of the pieces in decades. Her daughters, though, all have a favorite necklace they remember her wearing when they were kids, and they all want it.
Selling the necklace doesn’t help. That may divide the value, but it may not be worth much. Plus, the daughters do not actually care about how much money they could get. They all want the specific necklace that they remember, so there is no possible solution where they can all get what they want.
How to avoid these conflicts
The key to avoiding a conflict like this is to create a comprehensive plan that accounts for everything. Someone may still be disappointed that they didn’t get something they wanted, but they won’t be as likely to start a legal dispute because they’ll know what was actually desired. As you create your plan, make sure you know how to do this properly.