When you hear about a Will contest you probably envision a multi-million dollar estate with heirs battling it out in probate court for the family mansion or the decedent’s stock portfolio. While those cases certainly do happen, it is far more common for estate battles to be waged over sentimental assets that hold little, if any, monetary value. To prevent your loved ones from ending up in probate court in a similar battle, be sure to address those sentimental items in your estate plan.
When most people sit down to create their estate plan they immediately focus on their most valuable estate assets, including things such as a home, a retirement plan, stocks and bonds, or even a family business. While all of these assets do certainly need to be addressed in an estate plan, they are not the sum total of your estate. The majority of your estate likely consists of smaller, more personal items. Those items are what loved ones are likely to fight over after you are gone. Family heirlooms, photo albums, awards, even a favorite jacket that you always wore to church – these are the items that could spark a court battle that may not only cost your estate in terms of dollars and cents but could result in a rift in the family that may never be repaired. If you want to avoid such a result you need to decide now who gets the sentimental assets in your estate. There is more than one way to accomplish that goal, including:
- Lifetime gifting – giving the items away before you die resolves the problem ahead of time.
- Specific bequests – you can include specific bequests in your Last Will and Testament; although that can get tedious and items could be overlooked.
- Inclusion in a trust agreement – you can transfer all assets to a trust agreement and decide what happens to them in the trust terms. Your Trustee can be given the discretion to make decisions regarding any items not specific dealt with in a trust term.
- Letter of Instruction – a Letter of Instruction allows you to express your wishes for items in your estate and can be easily modified; however, those wishes are not legally binding.
The important thing is that you dispose of the smaller items in your estate in one way or another so that loved ones don’t have the chance to fight over them after you are gone.
If you have additional questions or concerns about the sentimental items in your estate contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.
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