When planning the distribution of your estate, smaller, tangible personal property items can cause more difficulty than larger, even more valuable assets. Sentimental items can lead to family disputes and possibly litigation, which might rack up legal fees costing more than the value of the collectibles and mementos at issue.
While many estate planning documents divide personal property evenly amongst the beneficiaries, you may want to consider using specific bequests designating certain heirlooms to certain family members or other items to friends. Simply asking each family member and friend privately what items mean the most to them could help avoid any potential conflicts. If you are concerned about a beneficiary attacking your capacity to make these decisions, adding specific bequests to your estate planning documents may help avoid a challenge by showing that your choice was quite intentional.
Additionally, Michigan law allows the use of Personal Property Memorandums. These are particularly useful if you have a long list of items or want flexibility to change your mind without fully amending your estate plan documents. You may prepare a list of items designating the recipient by name, but Michigan law requires that the list must be in your own handwriting and signed and dated. If you use a personal property memorandum, you may still want to include specific bequests in your will or trust for any high-value items or those that you know may cause conflict.
As you take the time to plan for your estate, remember that items with a low-dollar value may actually have a much higher emotional value. Carefully planning for those items may help prevent conflict. If you have any questions about the best strategy for your estate plan and your assets, give us a call at (248) 477-6300.