Reason #9 to Update Your Estate Plan: Prevent “Stuff” from Destroying Relationships

The rolling pin your mother used to make pie crusts each Thanksgiving… The record player you purchased in 1972… The tacky ceramic Christmas tree you’ve displayed every year since the kids were young…. These may not sound like the makings of a family feud, but sentimental treasures like these are very often the things that cause huge rifts when parents die and children are left to divvy up their belongings.

When listening to our clients plan out how their estate will be divided once they have passed, we often hear variations of, “Oh, it’s just stuff…we’ll let the kids duke it out,” when speaking of these miscellaneous household items. In lawyerese, this “stuff” is called Tangible Personal Property, and it’s actually pretty important to decide ahead of time who gets what. If the kids are upset with you after you’re gone, that’s okay– they’ll soon get over it. We just don’t want them mad at each other. 

We all know that the death of a parent is an extremely emotional time, and even the most seemingly “unsentimental” of us can start to feel strangely attached to things that bring back memories. The last thing you want is for your children to fight over your possessions after you’re gone and harm their relationships with one another. Imagine the hurt feelings that could ensue if it’s simply a “free-for-all” where possession is 9/10 of the law. We recommend talking to your kids NOW about the things that are meaningful to them and dividing them up fairly in your trust. That way, Kate gets the rolling pin, Charlotte gets the Christmas tree, and Tim gets the record player. You get peace of mind knowing that your kids will remain friends after you are gone.

Speaking of friends, have you thought about what will happen to your furry friends once you’ve passed? Most people don’t consider their pets Tangible Personal Property, but rather, a member of the family. Some thought should certainly be given as to who is best able to care for Fido in case he outlives you. We can even set up a modest “pet trust” within the revocable living trust to see that the caretaker is given money for food, vet bills, etc.

Planning for tangible personal property is not difficult from a legal standpoint, but can be from an emotional one. A trust review will give you a chance to go over your decisions and allow us to talk you through any potential ticking time bombs.

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