Estate Planning: Determining What Will Happen to Your Personal Effects

Most people overlook the importance of planning for the distribution of personal effects in their estate plan. Most people understand the importance of having an up-to-date will and understand the consequences of dying without a will. However, many families experience arguments, strife and discord about the personal effects of a loved one who has passed away. However, just a few simple steps can help avoid these problems.

Talk to Your Family

Although it is always a difficult conversation, it is important to discuss the distribution of your personal effects with your family. Personal effects include jewelry, collectibles and artwork. There are also items that may not be expensive but that you may also want to discuss. These are items of great sentimental value. Although these items may not cost much, they may be extremely valuable to your family. See if you can determine who wants each item. If you can, accommodate their wishes. Ultimately, though, you should decide who gets what.

Put It in Writing

You will not be present to explain your wishes when the time comes to distribute your personal effects. Make a list in as much detail as possible. This list should be a part of your estate plan and kept with your will. Anything on your list that is unclear could cause a problem. Therefore, too much detail is better than too little. Resist the temptation to let your heirs decide. The best person to decide on this issue is you. Any omissions can be the source of unnecessary dispute. Also realize that simply specifying that everything be divided equally will not solve the problem. If you can’t decide about some particulars, you may want to outline what you consider to be a fair process for distribution.

Update Your List

Keep in mind that things will change. You may sell, lose or give away items. Many people remarry or divorce. A person on your list may predecease you. Therefore, it is extremely important to update your list periodically. All of your efforts may be wasted if you do not take into account changes in your situation or family.

Keep Your List in a Safe Place

Planning for distribution of your personal effects is wasted if your list cannot be located. Therefore, make sure you have a copy with your important papers. Also give copies to your attorney and your personal representative. The only copy should not be in your safe deposit box. Several weeks could elapse before the list is located. By then some disputes may have already started.

Unfortunately, many bitter disputes occur in the absence of clear instructions about personal effects. The key is to make sure everything is written down. These few simple steps may help your family avoid unnecessary heartache and grief.

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