People fight over the darndest things. In fact, the object which triggered the quarrel may have no intrinsic value at all ... other than the good tinder for a tussle.
Have you planned for the orderly distribution of the "stuff" in your estate?
I prepared my first estate plan 30 years ago next month. There are very few things I have not seen, to include some real messes.
One thing you can do to avoid messes is to determine now what will have with your non-titled (i.e., "tangible personal") property later. Think all of your stuff that does not have a title certificate, deed or account number associated with it.
This was the subject of a recent article in the Hays (Kansas) Daily News, titled “Discussion might ease transfer of family heirlooms.”
Unfortunately, decisions about non-titled property are not often made during ideal circumstances. Many times these decisions are made during in times of transition, like remarriage, the down-sizing of the family home, or during a family crisis like a death or moving an elderly family member to a health care facility.
This whole decision-making process is more challenging and sensitive when family members are emotional and focusing on these other events. While not easy, the original article says decisions about the transfer of personal property have the potential to be a time to reminisce, share memories, or together work through the grieving process.
There is no magic formula or solution available for transferring personal property. Every family and their possessions are different.
However, you should bear in mind some critical factors, to include:
- Understanding the sensitivity of the issue for both owner and heirs.
- Determining what you want to accomplish in the transfer process.
- Deciding what's "fair" in your family.
- Recognizing that belongings have different meanings for different people.
- Exploring distribution options and consequences.
- Agreeing to manage conflicts if they arise.
Property owners have the legal right to decide when and how to transfer their non-titled property.
When this is before death, it allows the owner to consider the wishes of recipients and enjoy the gifting process. If this is done after a death, there is a good chance the disbursal might not reflect the wishes of the owner. When you add to this emotions and an individual's sense of entitlement, then it is hard to know in these circumstances what is "fair."
This can be the source of real conflict.
In a worst case scenario, disputes about an inheritance might causes siblings to break off relationships with each other.
Transferring non-titled personal property takes time, as well as physical and emotional energy. This holiday season might be a good time to begin conversations about family belongings.
More open and honest communication among the people involved is always a good thing and can make these arrangements smoother with less conflict.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: The Hays (Kansas) Daily News (November 27, 2014) “Discussion might ease transfer of family heirlooms”