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Can Estate Planning Protect My Family Heirlooms?

October 14, 2019

estate planning attorneyEstate planning involves more than just your cash and personal property. A mistake that some clients make is overlooking family heirlooms which often have more sentimental value than monetary value. Part of determining how to distribute your assets after death includes distributing heirlooms that need to be kept in the family and passed on through the generations.  Including your family heirlooms in your estate plan is important and our Reno estate planning attorneys can help.

Be Specific and Put Your Instructions in Writing

Even if you have already discussed with your children how they feel about certain personal belongings, their feelings could very easily change in the future. This is especially true when memories fade. While you may not want to specifically bequeath every single personal item to someone in particular, the meaningful bequests should be written down in detail. Preserving your wishes on these matters will be important to you and your heirs later on. Your Reno estate planning attorney can assist you in drafting the proper plan.

Have Your Heirlooms Appraised

The traditional definition of a family heirloom is a specific item that has been passed down through the generations or that you intend to pass down in that way. The first step should be to determine the monetary value of these items by getting the items appraised. Depending on the type of heirlooms you have, there are various dealers available to provide an appraisal. Antique dealers, fine art dealers, historical or rare book dealers; all have the expertise required to provide an accurate appraisal of your property. If you need help finding one, please contact our law firm for referrals.

Avoid Disputes Over Family Heirlooms

A personal property memo is one way to avoid a dispute over these prize possessions. A personal property memo is basically a written statement referred to in a last will and testament, which can be used to leave personal property to beneficiaries. A personal property memo can be revised or modified without the need of executing your will again. If you want to explore this option, consult with our Reno estate planning attorney.

Make Sure Heirlooms Are Fairly Distributed

When it comes to family heirlooms, there may be some items that have greater value than others. This can make equitable distribution between heirs more challenging. However, there are few strategies that can be useful. Of course, the most direct way is to make specific bequests to your heirs and discuss your decisions with them while you are still living. If your children agree with your choices, then the likelihood of a dispute over these items after your death can be greatly reduced. But, what should be done if there are family heirlooms that are not specifically bequeathed, for whatever reason?

Distributing Family Heirlooms

Without your specific instructions, your appointed executor or trustee will be required to determine how to divide the family heirlooms, at his or her own discretion. Another way to avoid family disputes is to allow the beneficiaries to divide the heirlooms amongst themselves by agreement. If there are any specific items about which they cannot agree, the executor or trustee can then make the decision. Your beneficiaries can also choose the heirlooms by drawing lots in equal shares, with any inequalities to be resolved through cash payments. As an alternative, the executor can hold a silent auction. If you have questions about these and other options, talk to a Reno estate planning attorney.

The “No-Contest Clause”

Some states allow you to include a “No-Contest Clause” in your will or trust.  This provision effectively discourages family disputes over inheritances. If any of your heirs decide to contest the Will, then they are not entitled to receive any part of the inheritance.

Schedule a Consultation

Eventually when you die, your family should not be wasting time fighting over your personal property. Instead, it is a time for them to be supportive to one another and to celebrate your life. If you plan ahead with the assistance of an estate planning attorney, you can avoid many of the potential challenges that come with distributing an estate like family squabbles over your heirlooms.

If you have questions regarding family heirlooms or any other estate planning matters, please contact the experienced attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. for a consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (775) 823-9455. We are here to help!

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