Often Forgotten: Tangible Personal Property in Estate Planning

By Neel Shah, Trusts|Estates|Law posted 03-13-2015 14:35


Most people would consider these items, also referenced as “belongings” to be important or of sentimental value, but they often get overlooked in the estate planning process. These items can be furniture, clothing, jewelry, silverware, cars, boats, pieces of art, or household furnishings. Even those these items tend to be left out of estate planning, it’s also quite common for heirs to fight over them. 

The cost of these items in comparison with the legal costs to fight over them is often not equal, meaning that heirs might be filling to fight for it but at great expense. Each family member might have a different perception on what is “fair” regarding the distribution of this property, so it pays to plan in advance and limit fighting between loved ones.

One common approach if you don’t want to list everything in detail is to put a standard provision inside that you leave everything to your spouse. If your spouse does not survive you, you can outline that your children receive it and that if your children do not agree, a personal representative can help distribute the property. Most people assume that their children will actually not argue over these items, but legal disputes related to these belongings are more common than you think.

In order to limit the possibility for such arguments, consider the following checklist:

  • Consider who should be included in the process
  • Detail the process of selection
  • Think about how gifts should be treated
  • Evaluate how separate appraisals of the same item should be treated
  • Determine how items with only sentimental value will be classified
  • Set up systems to allow for the home to be vacated as quickly as possible

To learn more about the importance of planning ahead for personal property, contact us today at [email protected].