Successful adults often make their most financially valuable assets the main focus of the estate planning process. They may use investment accounts and real property to fund a trust. They may address their most valuable personal holdings by name in their wills. They may even add family members to a title or account paperwork for certain resources ahead of time so that those assets transfer directly to another person when they die.
This focus can help people control the distribution of their property, but it won’t necessarily eliminate the possibility of probate conflicts among their beneficiaries. Testators often overlook an entire category of assets that can trigger bitter fighting and damage the relationships between their surviving loved ones.
Personal property has financial and emotional value
The resources that people make use of in their daily life may not seem as valuable as financial holdings, businesses and real property. However, all of the small appliances in someone’s kitchen might have a cumulative value of thousands of dollars. Collectibles ranging from antique glass to sports memorabilia could be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Firearms, works of art, vehicles, clothing and furniture are all types of personal property that people may not specifically include in estate plans because they don’t see those assets as particularly valuable. However, their loved ones may see the potential value in those assets. They may also have memories attached to certain property that makes them want to retain those assets after someone dies. Those who fail to address assets that seem less valuable in their estate plans may set their families up for major disputes during estate administration.
How do people handle personal property?
There are three main ways to handle personal property in an estate plan. Individuals can group their personal assets into categories or pick out the most significant personal property and bequeath those assets to certain beneficiaries. They can also instruct their executor to simply sell off any property that they did not address in depth in their estate planning paperwork. Finally, they might name someone to receive the remainder of their assets and dispose of them how they see fit.
Any of these approaches will clarify someone’s wishes and hopefully deter frivolous claims brought by those who would like control over certain assets. Carefully addressing assets that have emotional value in addition to those that have financial value is an important estate planning step for those who hope to keep the peace within their families after they die.