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How to Bequeath Sentimental Items in a Way that Sidesteps Contention and Family Strife

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Tips to Help You Bequeath Items in a Way that Avoids Family Conflict


We’ve seen the portrayals in the media of family members fighting over sentimental items after a loved one’s death. These scenes aren’t totally from fantasy–it does happen in real life! However, more importantly, we all have something to pass on and planning for that bequeathment can be a simple and wonderful way to be remembered by your loved ones.

But how can you bequeath sentimental items in a way that helps avoid family strife and contention? Here’s how.

1 | Have a Plan

Having an estate plan is an essential part of avoiding family strife after you pass away. By having a plan in place, you are letting your loved ones know exactly what your wishes are. And when your family members are able to follow your plan, it gives them peace of mind knowing they are honoring your final wishes.

Having a plan to divide assets can also help avoid costly and traumatic legal battles. When you have no plan in place, this means that either your family needs to figure it out or it can go to court when there are disagreements or larger assets. Legal battles can get messy, drawn out, expensive, and don’t allow for the healing process to begin in earnest after your passing.

Remember, family members generally want to honor the wishes of their loved one. Fighting is less likely to break out if you have an estate plan in place.

2 | Talk About Your Plans

Good communication helps avoid conflict in all kinds of situations, including what happens to your assets after your passing. Talking to your family about your estate plans ahead of time can help them to further understand your decisions. This is because you have a chance to talk more about the “why” and answer questions your family may have, which can’t be done after you are gone. This also allows your family time to process and more fully understand your wishes so that when the time comes, they know exactly what you want and any issues have already been resolved. This can be especially important to do if you are leaving someone out of the will.

3 | Give Gifts During Your Lifetime

Another option for avoiding strife and tension after your passing is to disburse sentimental items before you die. Not only will the recipient get to enjoy those items for longer, but it also avoids claims to them after your passing. Consider giving these sentimental items as gifts for birthdays or holidays.

This strategy assumes, however, that the item is below the annual gift tax exclusion. Items of greater value require a gift tax return be filed and may entail taxes. Be sure to talk to your financial advisor to understand whether your loved one may incur a gift tax or not.

4 | Other Ways to Avoid Family Discord

Some other options for avoiding family strife when dividing up sentimental items include:

Writing a letter of instruction on who gets what (this is not legally binding, but does serve as a roadmap)

Deferring to an independent fiduciary (a family executor must formally decline the appointment, however, steps should be taken for family members to agree on who will act as the independent fiduciary)

Using a lottery (as simple as writing a brief description of each item on a slip of paper, placing it into a hat, and allowing family members to take turns drawing until the hat is empty)

Final Thoughts

Estate planning not only allows you to dictate who receives what, but can help minimize bad feelings among family members. With OneDigitalTrust, you can empower your members to take control of their estate planning. Our digital platform makes it easy for members to create their estate plan and adjust it through all their life changes. You can create digital memories about the sentimental items that you bequeath by using photos, audio recordings and video about the item, all within the platform…..and share the memories (through the platform) privately with loved ones. Learn more about our next-generation digital platform that makes it simple for users to create and maintain their plans by visiting our website today!