Addressing sentimental property in your estate plan

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Estate Planning

When creating an estate plan, much attention is traditionally given to financial assets, real estate and investments. However, addressing the distribution of sentimental personal property—a category of assets that often includes family heirlooms, photographs, jewelry, books, knick knacks, memorable items once owned by children in a family and personal letters—can be equally important. 

Such items may not have significant monetary value but may hold immense sentimental value to family members. It is, therefore, important that these treasured belongings are passed on thoughtfully and in ways designed to minimize potential conflicts among a testator’s beneficiaries. 

Committing to an approach

The first step in addressing sentimental property in your estate plan is to identify which items you consider to be of sentimental value. These might include family heirlooms passed down through generations, gifts from significant life events or even everyday items that have become symbolic of cherished relationships and memories. Make a detailed list of these items as part of your estate documentation.

You’ll also want to engage in open communication with family members about sentimental items, in order to better understand their emotional ties and preferences. These discussions can provide valuable insights into which family members cherish certain items more than others. It’s also an opportunity to explain your decisions regarding who will receive each item, which can help prevent misunderstandings and disputes after your passing.

Once you have identified your sentimental items and consulted with loved ones, the next step is to formally incorporate these items into your will. Be as specific as possible in describing each item to avoid any ambiguity that could lead to disputes. For example, instead of simply listing “jewelry,” detail the item as “the gold locket given to me by Grandma Ellen on my 16th birthday.”

Keep in mind, as well, that sentimental property isn’t limited to physical items. Digital assets such as photos, videos and social media accounts also have emotional value for many. Including instructions for these digital assets in your estate plan can help to ensure that memories preserved electronically are also cared for according to your wishes.

While it isn’t easy to think about giving away these cherished assets, being proactive about expressing your preferences can help you to leave a more meaningful legacy later on.