When people are in the process of making an estate plan, it is common for them to focus the majority of their attention on what happens to assets like the family home, funds held in retirement accounts and other investments. While this sort of planning is important, it is only part of the story. Indeed, one recent study indicates that many people consider it just as important to make sure that family heirlooms are properly passed on when they are drafting their estate plans.
In 2012, Allianz Life Insurance Company conducted a survey of adults from across the U.S. who were approaching retirement. Eighty six percent of baby boomers surveyed and 74 percent of those age 72 and older said that preserving family keepsakes was just as important as providing for their families financially. Among baby boomers, 64 percent said that inheriting heirlooms was significantly important. These findings confirmed data from a similar survey conducted by Allianz in 2005.
Because family heirlooms are so important, individuals should take steps while drafting their estate plans to ensure that they are passed on properly. First, it is important for individuals to speak to family members about heirlooms and keepsakes. For example, while a special tea cup may hold a great deal of value for one family member, this may not be true for everyone. Although it may be awkward, families should sit down and have a frank conversation about who wants what. Having these conversations before a person passes away can also help to prevent conflict among family members.
Second, once family members have expressed their views on which items they would like to receive, individuals should draft a memorandum that details how personal property is to be divided. This not only serves to prevent conflict, but can also prevent confusion. For example, a description of “grandma’s wedding ring” may not provide enough information for heirs to know which ring was intended. Taking the time to draft a memorandum can make it easy to catch these sorts of ambiguities before it is too late.
Finally, depending on the circumstances, it may even be a good idea to hire a professional executor. Ensuring that the distribution of heirlooms occurs smoothly is important and it the extra expense may prove to be worth it.
It is never too early to think about your estate plan. For more information about further considerations, speak to an estate planning attorney.