Whether your possessions are worth a lot of money or just have a lot of sentimental value, it’s important to you that they are passed down to the next generation. You might have told your children and grandchildren which special belongings you want them to get when you are gone, but unless your Estate Plan makes it clear, anything could happen to these family heirlooms. We explain the steps you should take to make sure that your wishes are known and, more importantly, legally binding.
For Starters, You Need an Estate Plan
Your first step in protecting valuable objects for loved ones is to meet with an Estate Planning and Asset Protection Attorney to write or revise your Estate Plan. There are several important documents in an Estate Plan, and your attorney will make sure your plan is complete. In terms of ensuring that the intended recipient gets the property you want them to have, your plan will need the following:
- Will. You can list specific items, such as pieces of jewelry, art objects, handmade heirlooms, and furniture in your Will and indicate who should inherit each item. If it is important to you that a certain person gets a particular item, you will have to make sure that the item and its location are clearly identified in the Will and that you name the intended recipient. If, at any point after writing the Will, the object is moved, sold, lost, or stolen, it is best to update the Will to avoid confusion and conflict when the Will is read. Keep in mind that objects listed in a Will will have to go through Probate, so the transfer of ownership could take some time.
- Trust. Particularly valuable objects can be transferred to a Trust with a designated beneficiary. Technically, items held in the Trust no longer belong to the original owner and do not have to be Probated with the rest of the Estate. These items could be stored in a safe deposit box or held by the Trustee or other fiduciary to protect them from theft after the death of the Trustor.
- Reliable representative. When you create a Will, you name an Executor to manage Probate and oversee the dispensation of the Estate. Likewise, in a Trust, you name a Trustee to do the same. If you have chosen your representative carefully and communicated your wishes to them ahead of time, that can go a long way towards making sure your wishes are honored after you pass.
It’s not easy thinking about what will happen after you are gone, but it’s important to make sure that you have made your wishes clear and legally binding. It’s not enough to put sticky notes on objects in your house and trust that your family members will abide. Unfortunately, loved ones you think of as reasonable can turn on each other after your death and fight over objects you thought you had secured for a particular person.
Consider Having the Conversations Now
While Wills and Trusts might be necessary for protecting assets such as the money in your investment accounts, your home, and your property, it might be better to avoid the formality of these legal documents when you are dealing with items of sentimental value. Why not consider gifting these objects now, when you can appreciate the recipient’s reaction and make sure they go to the people you want to have them? As long as you are of sound mind, no one can dispute your decision to distribute the heirlooms while you are still alive. At the very least, you could have a family meeting where you ask your loved ones what they want and tell them what you want them to have before documenting your wishes in a Will or Trust.
Are You Looking for an Estate Planning Attorney in Texarkana, TX?
If you are looking for estate planning advice, you need to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Texarkana office directly at 903.223.5653. We also have offices in Tyler, Paris, Longview as well as Magnolia, AR!