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How to deal with sentimental items in an estate

When planning for future inheritances, the family home, business, and bank accounts may be among the first considerations. But, for some California families, these monetarily valuable assets can be less contentious and more straightforward than items with sentimental value. Sentimental items can be any number of things: a beloved heirloom, a journal, photo albums, handmade piece of furniture, the list goes on. Here are some tips for handling the distribution of these items: 

  • Have a family meeting during the estate planning process: Ideally, a planner will discuss with individual beneficiaries and/or the group which items are important to them. This will allow any specific requests to be understood and potentially worked into a formal estate plan.
     
  • Get sentimental items valuated: Items that are sentimental may also have significant financial value, such as family jewelry or a coin collection. If setting aside such an item for one person, it can be a good idea to understand the value of it in order to distribute the remaining assets fairly. 
     
  • Consider holding a family auction: If there are several sentimental items after a passing and it’s unclear who might get what, an “auction” is a common workaround. This involves putting all beneficiaries’ names in a hat, then letting them pick an item when their name is picked. Note that most often, the value of the items selected should be taken out of the person’s share of the estate. 

Generally speaking, most estate planners are concerned with making choices that are fair to all beneficiaries and leave everyone satisfied. This can be difficult in some family situations, but the best way to encourage a positive outcome is with clear communication and support as early as possible. A California estate planning attorney is a great resource when going through this process, both when planning and during estate administration. 

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