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Why sentimental items are so problematic in an estate plan

On Behalf of | May 22, 2023 | Estate Planning

Estate disputes happen for numerous reasons. One of the most common, however, is that siblings fight over sentimental items.

Putting these items into an estate plan can lower the odds of a dispute by giving these heirs some direction. But that doesn’t guarantee that a dispute won’t happen. Why are sentimental items such an issue?

There’s no substitute

The big problem is that there’s no substitute for something that has sentimental value to an individual. If multiple people all feel the same way, they’re naturally going to want that item for themselves.

These are often unique items. A painting. A book collection. A set of dishes. A certain piece of furniture. It’s not as if these items can be divided in any sense between the heirs. Two people who want the same painting are not going to be happy unless they get it – and they both cannot have it.

With other types of estate disputes, a common tactic is to sell the asset and split the money. If two heirs can’t decide who gets to keep it, converting it into a financial asset is necessary. You can’t split a painting, but you can sell it for $10,000 and give two people $5,000 each.

But that only works if the heirs are interested in the financial value. If they’re actually interested in the sentimental value, then neither one of them would want to sell the item and split the money because that would mean they both lost out on what they actually wanted.

Working through this process

Those doing estate planning definitely want to consider disputes and what they can do to reduce the odds of one occurring. Often, it can help to plan in advance and talk to the heirs so that they know what to expect.