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When it comes to personal possessions, sentiment often trumps money

When contemplating matters related to estate planning, many people focus on financial aspects. Parents take care to ensure a will and beneficiary designations are updated and trusts provide for the future financial success of loved ones. While estate planning documents related to the division of wealth are typically important to all involved parties, in many cases the division of personal belongings is of equal or more sentimental value.

Take for example a mother who took measures to ensure her assets were split equally amongst her three daughters. The mother, however, failed to consider material possessions that may be of significant sentimental value to her daughters. As a result, in the wake of the mother's death, fights erupted as the siblings attempted to retain possession of certain treasured items from their childhood.

Estate disputes amongst siblings or other family members are frequently about personal possessions that may be of little monetary value. These possessions, however, are deemed to be of great value as they are associated with memories of a loved one or childhood.

In order to prevent disputes over personal artifacts after one's death, individuals would be wise to take steps to determine who wants what before it's too late. One way to accomplish this task is to ask heirs to list items that are of sentimental value. Another way to sort out who gets what is to have children take turns putting color-coded stickers on items.

Many estate disputes are fueled by hurt and hard feelings that result because a parent failed to communicate their wishes and intentions. To prevent conflict in the wake of one's passing, it's advisable to make plans and communicate those plans prior to one's death.

Source: Consumer Reports, "How to spare your heirs a battle over your estate: Dividing money is easy. But who gets Mom’s tea set?," April, 2014

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