For a variety of reasons, many individuals − even those who have created thoughtful estate plans − fail to create plans for the distribution of their personal property following death. Personal property (also called tangible personal property or TPP) refers to all items other than cash, cash equivalents and real estate, including furniture and household items, computers and electronic devices, photo albums, jewelry, firearms, artwork, collections, vehicles and so forth.
Many people address these items in their estate planning with broad statements such as, “divide my tangible personal property equally among my children.” In using such a statement, these people likely imagine their children calmly taking turns picking out items that have great sentimental value to them and then working together in harmony to determine which of the remaining items should be donated, sold or given to other family members.
Unfortunately, the scenario often plays out much differently. If you have more than one heir, a vague direction like this could lead to arguments about who receives an item that multiple people want, about whether “equally” refers to quantity of items or value, or about an item you allegedly told someone they would receive but did not put in writing.
Keep in mind that your family members will be grieving at this time, and this may cause them to feel especially attached to items that belonged to you during your life, even if those items have little or no monetary value (like your guitar pick collection). Arguments over those items can damage family relationships, possibly irreparably, and in some cases even lead to lawsuits.
You can help avoid this conflict with a little extra thought and preparation.
Tips when planning for your personal property:
Knowing how difficult the months after your passing will be for your family, it makes sense to ease their burden and provide them with some guidance as to what you would like them to do with the items that are not accounted for elsewhere in your estate planning. If you would like to discuss planning for your personal property, contact your Warner attorney or contact Beth O’Laughlin at email@example.com or at 616.396.3118.