In the overall scope of things, tangible personal property (i.e. furniture, art, jewelry, clothes and tchotchkes) may seem to be an insignificant concern when planning your estate and providing for its disposition upon death. However, if not addressed properly, it can tear the family fabric apart.
Consider the old blanket knitted by your mother that has no real monetary value, but has deep sentimental value to one or more family members. Contrast this with your mother’s diamond wedding ring that maintains a true monetary value as well as an emotional value. These are not hypothetical issues. We have seen instances where families have been divided after death because similar items of personal property were not addressed when planning and different beneficiaries desired the same items.
Both a will and a trust can provide for the disposition of such personal property either generally or with each item specifically given to a particular beneficiary. This allows you to formally designate the property to that individual as well as resolve conflicts before they arise where multiple people desire the same property. During the holidays you might have had discussions regarding certain items. Now, while the conversations are fresh in your mind, is a good time to memorialize those discussions.
When planning, it is also important to ensure the terms of your planning documents are coordinated. Don’t have your will provide that the personal property goes to your wife or children while your trust provides that the property passes with the residue of your trust to other beneficiaries. Most personal property is not conveyed with a title so a bill of sale or other legal means is needed to transfer the property to your trust. If not assigned to a trust, it normally passes under the terms of your will.
Consult with family regarding your tangible personal property then consult with your attorney and ensure he or she is aware of all your planning documents and how best to provide for the disposition of these sentimental and often valuable items. We are happy to review your estate plan with you if you have concerns about how it addresses your personal property.
By: Bruce Berkinshaw
Senior Vice President & Private Wealth Advisor