“Sweating the Small Stuff” – Planning for Assets with Sentimental Value
People preparing estate plans often spend a lot of time determining what will happen to high-value assets like real estate, vehicles, and stocks. Some people spend little time allocating small personal property with sentimental value to members of their families. But these items can include valued (whether valuable or not) heirlooms like jewelry, artwork, and antique furniture. If you don’t address the “small stuff” in your estate plan, surviving family members could fight if more than one person wants that special dress, ring, or painting.
How Are Sentimental Assets Different?
Sentimental assets like jewelry, furniture, or photographs differ from assets with a high monetary value because the value that family members place on sentimental assets comes from a different place. While real estate and stocks have a cash value, these assets get their value from the memories that family members attach to them. Unlike bank accounts or the proceeds from the sale of real estate, a piece of personal property with sentimental value can’t be divided among family members.
Why Assets with Sentimental Value Require More Planning
In most cases, tangible personal property is considered a part of the residual estate. A will can direct who receives the residual estate. In the absence of specific directives, it might be distributed under North Carolina’s intestacy laws. In these cases, your estate’s executor or administrator may sell off tangible personal property and distribute the proceeds according to the residuary clause in your will or the intestacy laws. That could be a tragedy.
If you want to ensure that assets with sentimental value remain in your family, you should ensure that your estate plan specifically identifies both the asset and a person who should receive it following your death.
Should I Discuss My Plan for Distributing Sentimental Assets with My Family?
If you want to avoid causing conflicts over who will get items of sentimental value after your passing, it’s a good idea to sit down and discuss them with your family. A discussion could help you understand which family members value which items. This can help guide your decision about how to distribute specific items in your estate plan. Once you’ve decided who will be given a specific asset, you can explain your reasoning to your family. That way, you and your family can avoid confusion, conflict, and hurt feelings.
Options for Distributing Sentimental Property through Estate Planning
Specific bequests of each of your belongings in your will can distribute them to surviving family members. Sometimes this proves too complex if you have too many items to designate to specific family members or heirs.
Alternatively, North Carolina General Statutes §31-51 allows for a tangible personal property memorandum to be incorporated by reference in a will. This could make it easier to distribute sentimental property by allowing you to draft your will with the appropriate incorporation language efficiently. You could then draft a separate memorandum document after having conversations with your family about how your sentimental items should be distributed.
How an NC Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
If you have assets of sentimental value, a North Carolina estate planning lawyer can help you by:
- Reviewing your estate and identifying potential tangible property that you might want to give to specific family members
- Drafting specific bequests into the will or appropriate language in the will that allows you to give assets of sentimental value in a tangible personal property memorandum
- Assisting you with revising your will or personal property memorandum when you need to make changes
If you have questions about how to handle assets with sentimental value in your estate plan, call or contact an NC estate planning attorney from Mullen Holland & Cooper today. You can have a case evaluation to discuss options to meet your and your family’s goals.