People who handle their estate planning often think about distributing their large or valuable assets, like their home or bank accounts. Often people don’t consider the distribution of tangible personal property. Clients frequently don’t consider who will be “in charge” of distributing those assets, or who the beneficiary will be of those assets. Often, family members are more concerned about receiving the tangible personal property because of the sentimental value that the item carries with it. Often people will agree on splitting the bank account, but fight over who gets the piano and who gets the lawnmower. Often times, estate planning overlooks this property, because people who are doing the estate planning have the bigger picture in mind, and forget about the details and the administrative actions needed to finalize their affairs. Fortunately, we have solutions to resolving this issue.


Why should you have an attorney assist in setting up an estate plan?

Estate planning attorneys have experienced volumes of estates and have identified the snags that families undergo when administrating estates. Whether it is through the probate system or with a trust administration, certain patterns develop. Attorneys are adept at organizing who will receive specific assets and then setting up a hierarchy of decision makers who will make those decisions on non-specified assets. Moreover, they can assist you in creating a supplementary document where tangible personal items can be directed to beneficiaries. Often attorneys will include a hierarchy of individuals who will have the authority to make the distribution of tangible personal property.

Often, clients are not sure which of their children and family want certain items in their house, not knowing which items carry the most sentimental value. Parents don’t want their family to fight over items, and sentimental value is never higher than immediately after losing a loved one. One method I advise clients on is to purchase sticker sets and a create a key for each type of sticker. Then, they can place sticker on the bottom of an item that they want to go to a certain individual that corresponds to that individual on the key. Once the owner has labeled all of the items they want to go to certain people, have their family come in and place their stickers on any items that that are remaining that they would desire. Any remaining items will be sold or donated to charity. This method helps to reduce fighting because there is certainty in who is to receive assets and the decision is made prior to the owns passing.

Jonathan Cole

(708) 529-7794