Personal property is something people often forget about when drawing up wills and other estate planning documents. Not surprisingly, the biggest point of conflict among families isn’t the million-dollar horse property, it's the little yellow Tweety Bird statue that sat in mom's kitchen for 40 years.
This is according to a recent CNBC article, “7 ways that cheap Tweety Bird figurine can screw up your estate.” It lists some of the major mistakes that people make when bequeathing their personal property.
Failing to appreciate sentimental value. Fights can arise from property with little financial value but great sentimental value. That could be the Barry Manilow albums and your high school letter jacket. Ask your kids and other family for a list of sentimental items they'd want to receive. You can then decide who gets what. You should add those bequests in your will. It may be helpful to also include pictures of the items.
Oral bequests. Put any promised bequests in writing. Otherwise, you are just facilitating disagreements between members of your family.
Asking heirs to distribute. Distributing the bequests is your job, not your heirs'. It's risky to assume they’ll do what you want.
Mistaking ownership with access. With a safe deposit box, you need to be clear in your will who will receive the contents. Remember that a jointly-leased safe deposit box doesn't always mean joint ownership. It also doesn’t give an heir official access to the box contents as a signatory.
Failing to designate any unusual property. Remember to include things like digital assets in any property inventory. This can include reward program balances and social media accounts. Another much-litigated issue is unused reproductive assets like embryos: your will should state ownership and rights of use.
Planning for complicated possessions. There can be situations where a bequest requires more preparation and detail than usual. There may be federal and state laws governing a gift like a firearm. Some estate planning attorneys specialize in these transfers, using “gun trusts.” Illegal contraband can also raise issues, especially with a taxable estate. An IRS rule states that even if an asset can only be sold on the black market, it’s still an asset and its fair market value must be reported.
Reference: CNBC (October 10, 2017) “7 ways that cheap Tweety Bird figurine can screw up your estate”
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