When people think about how to distribute their most valuable possessions after death, it often is not the half a million dollars in the bank and in real estate that keeps them awake at night. It’s the pearls. The wedding rings, the heirloom guns, the china, and that antique hutch that your daughter-in-law has been ogling over for decades but you know your oldest daughter will implode if you leave it to your daughter-in-law – even though your daughter doesn’t care a thing in the world about the hutch itself and will probably either sell it or give it to her college-aged son as starter furniture.
Contrary to common expectation, your will does not usually address these items specifically. So if that’s what has been holding you up from making a will, you don’t have to figure those nuances out beforehand so come on in and see us!
Usually, the items mentioned above are only indirectly mentioned in your will. Your will provides that you might leave a writing, which can be as formal as a signed and notarized letter or as informal, in some cases, as post it notes attached to different items. The writing is not as enforceable as your will, but they are typically followed unless there is reason to believe they are the product of fraud or undue influence.
The reasoning behind not including these bequests in your will is essentially that we want you to be able to change your mind. Although you think your daughter-in-law wants the hutch, what if you find out the day after executing your will that she was actually ogling the Santa Claus statue inside of the hutch, which you just left to your oldest daughter. Now you have to call your attorney, have another will or codicil drafted, execute it, and, of course, pay for it. It is usually in your best interest to keep the power to decide who gets your most treasured possessions in your hands. That way you can change your mind at any time based on who visits you the most…
During our estate planning intake meeting, we will talk about your family dynamics and what type of assets you have. Based on that discussion, we will come up with the best, most efficient plan to make sure your pearls go to the loved one you intend.
This interesting article When a Will is Not Enough appeared in the November 16, 2014 News & Observer: The Wall Street Journal Sunday edition and makes several good suggestions of things, including a letter regarding your personal possessions, that you should consider in addition to your will.
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