Tangible personal property and estate planning

estate planning

It might not sound that exciting, but in estate-planning terms, “tangible personal property” contains jewelry, antiques, photographs and collectibles. Sentimental value can make these difficult to plan for.

If you’re not careful, arguing among your family members over these items can lead to hurt feelings, and even litigation.

Clear communication

You shouldn’t have to guess which personal items mean the most to your children and other family members. Just ask! By creating a dialogue to find out who wants what and expressing your feelings about how you’d like to share your prized possessions, you can head off trouble before it happens. 

Be clear about who gets what

Some people allow their beneficiaries to choose the items they want or authorize executors to distribute personal property as they see fit. For most families, this isn’t an approach we recommend. 

Generally, the most effective strategy for avoiding costly disputes and litigation over personal property is to make your will very specific about who is inheriting which items. For example, you might leave an art collection to your daughter and your heirloom furniture to your son. 

If you use a revocable trust, make sure to transfer ownership of personal property to the trust to ensure that the property is distributed according to the trust’s terms. It’s also a good idea to have something known as a “pour-over” will. This type of will provides that any property you own at your death is transferred to your trust. Don’t forget, however, that property that passes through your will and pours into your trust generally must go through probate.

Don’t forget any assets!

People typically don’t forget to include major assets, such as real estate and business interests, as they prepare their estate plans, but it’s a lot easier to forget to also plan for your tangible personal property. Their higher emotional significance can make these lower monetary-value assets more difficult to deal with (and more likely to result in disputes,) than big-ticket items.

Please contact to your trusted Smolin Advisor with any questions or concerns.