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Things often Forgotten in an Estate Plan

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November 17, 2023 •  Emily Hicks Law, PLLC
In estate planning, it is common for items of sentimental value to be overlooked, leading to potential conflicts.

The Importance of Addressing Sentimental Value in Estate Planning

Estate planning is a crucial process that involves making decisions about the distribution of assets, financial affairs, and final arrangements after one's passing. While many individuals focus on monetary assets and real estate, it is common for items of sentimental value to be overlooked, leading to potential conflicts among heirs. The story of Roberto Goodman serves as a poignant example of the consequences that can arise when personal property with emotional significance is not explicitly addressed in a comprehensive estate plan.

Goodman's passing in 2018 triggered a dispute between his wife and children from previous marriages, centered not on financial assets but on his gold cufflinks. These cufflinks held deep sentimental value, having been worn at his wedding and other special occasions. Despite the existence of a detailed will, the oversight in explicitly addressing personal items of sentimental value fueled a family rift that could have been avoided with proper planning.

This scenario is far from uncommon, as personal property often becomes a focal point of disagreements during the estate settlement process. Jewelry, antiques, clothing, furniture, and various collections may hold significant emotional value for family members, and the failure to address their distribution can lead to long-lasting disputes that may irreparably damage relationships.

To prevent such conflicts, it is essential to include clear instructions on the distribution of items with sentimental value in your estate plan. A proactive approach involves sitting down with loved ones to discuss your intentions and gain insight into the emotional significance attached to specific possessions. Items that might seem inconspicuous could hold immense value in the hearts of family members.

Furthermore, transparency regarding any hidden items is important. Sharing such information with loved ones or an appointed Estate Trustee ensures that valuable possessions are not accidentally overlooked during the estate settlement process.

Beyond personal property, you should include plans for burial and funeral wishes in the estate plan. Final arrangements extend beyond the distribution of assets and should encompass details such as funeral or memorial preferences, choice of songs or hymns, location of the service, preferences for cremation or burial, and financial provisions for final expenses. Creating a separate document for these specific instructions could provide an additional layer of clarity and peace of mind for loved ones during a challenging and emotional time.

The importance of communicating these wishes cannot be overstated. Once the plan is in place, it is crucial to share the details with family members to ensure that your desires are known and respected. This proactive approach not only minimizes the potential for conflicts but also provides comfort to loved ones, knowing that they are carrying out your wishes with clarity and confidence. In conclusion, addressing sentimental value in estate planning is a vital step toward preserving family harmony and ensuring a smoother transition during a challenging period.

Reference: Catholic Register (November 9, 2023): Rhondra Sogren Things Often Forgotten in an Estate Plan

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