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Include heirlooms in estate plan to avoid family disputes

While creating an estate plan in New York, the objective should be to leave as few loose ends as possible to make the distribution of one’s estate as simple as possible. Items such as houses and real estate may be obvious items to include. But smaller possessions, especially those with little or no monetary value, should often also be considered.

If a collection of antiques, or vintage baseball cards or family heirlooms is to be part of an estate plan, these items can be handled in different ways. The easiest way might be to start by finding out if one member of the family covets a specific possession. For example, your daughter may not know who Whitey Ford is, so she may find no value, sentimental or otherwise, in the baseball card collection. But, she may have an appreciation of a collection of porcelain figurines that one of your other children would probably put in a garage sale. In such a case, it may be obvious who gets what with little dispute.

The other way to divide the property is by equal monetary value. Maybe your daughter is a sports memorabilia collector and your son is an antique dealer. Regardless of sentimental value, if these two collections are worth roughly the same price, they could be divided according to the financial value. Creating an inventory of items and having valuables appraised can make this process simpler.

The administration of an estate in any state, including here in New York, can be a time of high emotion. Things that were not issues when the loved one was alive may become issues just because of the sensitivity of asset distribution. The last thing the deceased person would want is to have family disputes damage relationships and possibly result in unnecessary court costs just to decide who gets what. By working with a qualified estate planning attorney many of these issues can be avoided.

Source: Forbes, “When It’s Time To Part With Family Heirlooms, And Why I Gave Away Grandpa Oscar’s Violin,” Deborah L. Jacobs, March 31, 2014

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