Careful estate planning is often necessary for any assets, as it can be complex to pass wealth to the next generation. Estate planning can make this process go smoothly, and it can also lower the odds of a dispute. Disputes are much more common in situations where there is not a will or an estate plan, so adult heirs have to work together to try to figure out what the other person would’ve wanted. That’s much more difficult to do than simply following instructions that were left behind.
But one area where extremely careful planning is necessary revolves around sentimental items. Since these often have very little financial value, people will sometimes overlook them or not give them the attention that they deserve. But they are very likely to cause disputes, so planning in advance is critical.
Why do these disputes happen?
When instructions are not given to the heirs, disputes often happen for emotional reasons. Maybe two siblings each wanted the same item, which reminds them of their parents, and they always imagined that they would get it. Perhaps comments made in passing by their parents when they were still alive led each person to believe that the item was meant for them. It’s impossible for them both to receive it, but they’re both emotionally invested. Someone has to be unhappy with the outcome.
In fact, this lack of financial value makes things trickier. With financial assets, heirs can always divide them. With assets that have a high value, they could theoretically be sold and the proceeds could be divided. But sentimental items don’t bring in enough money to be worth selling, and neither person wanted that money anyway — they wanted the specific item. So selling it and splitting the money doesn’t really resolve the dispute.
As a result, make sure you take the time to look into all of your legal options when making your estate plan.