The passing of family heirlooms from one generation to another should be welcome tradition in most families, but unfortunately, this process can cause long-lasting family rifts if not done properly. There are many stories of families that have split over a silver tea service or a portrait of a long-dead ancestor. In fact, you may be surprised to discover that far more family conflicts happen as a result of things than money. If you don’t want that to happen in your family, here’s what you can do as part of your estate planning to Protect Family Heirlooms From a Family Feud:
- Add specific designations to your Will and/or Trust.
Typically, a Will or Trust will specify that all personal property goes to the residue and is split equally between all heirs. But you may want to get more specific with items that are already family heirlooms or that you want to become family heirlooms.
All too often children will discover after Mom or Dad has passed that the Tiffany lamp was promised to more than one sibling. This is why it is important to create a list of your family heirlooms, assign names to each item and share that list during a family gathering while you’re still alive and well. This list can then be incorporated into your Will or Trust, so it becomes legally binding. A great alternative to a list is taking photos of each item and writing the name of the person you want to receive that item on the back.
- Make it fun.
Indicate in your Will and/or Trust that you want your family to make it a game and auction off your special items. Each family member can be given credits to use to bid on the items they want. Or you could suggest that items be chosen round-robin style with each family member getting to make one choice (starting with youngest or oldest, as designated by you) before going back around for family member’s to make their second choice. Then, after all the picking is done, family members can trade amongst themselves.
- Give it away during life.
One of the best ways to ensure your family doesn’t fight after you are gone is to give away family heirlooms during your lifetime. By doing this, you can create even more connection with the people you love.
- Leave a recorded legacy.
We’ve found the best way to pass on more than just your money is to record a story associated with each one of your family heirlooms. Include where the heirloom came from, who you are passing it onto and the special significance it has to you. This recording is likely to become the most valuable asset you can leave behind.
Heirlooms are only as valuable as you make them by sharing the stories and making certain that your family doesn’t end up fighting over what should be heart-filled memories. We can help at Pierchoski Estate Law.
A Note from the Attorney, Stan Pierchoski:
The practice of law is a second career for me. After obtaining Master of Science degrees in both Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering, I worked in the Nuclear Power Industry for 15 years. Always having an interest in law, I attended and graduated from law school and founded the Pierchoski Law Firm in 2002 in Pulaski, TN. For several years I practiced as a criminal defense, trial attorney. After my parents passed I became interested in Trust and Estate Law and felt a strong calling to change my practice to the Estate Planning area.
For years I have been exclusively doing trust writing and wealth planning and have become proficient at it. Over the last several years my practice has evolved to serve all age groups including elders and Medicaid Planning. I am always open to your questions and am more than happy to chat with you about your concerns so give me a call or stop by my office. You’ll be glad you did!