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Estate battles: When sentimental items matter most

Your parents made an estate plan and it very clearly laid out what should be done with their financial assets. Bank accounts got divided. Investment portfolios got cashed out and split up. Real estate got sold so that you could split the money perfectly. If your parents' estate was worth $1.5 million, you and your two siblings both got just about $500,000.

After all, your parents knew that leaving you an unequal bequest could start an estate dispute. Children want things to be fair and equal. Your parents prioritized that and planned for it.

The problem, though, is that you really don't care about money. You're all fairly well off. If your brother got $100,000 more than you or your sister got some financial assets that probably should have gotten divided three ways, you wouldn't care. They wouldn't either. Money is not your biggest issue.

Sentimental value is.

Memories

What you really care about are the things you can't replace. You care about your memories. Things with sentimental value carry a lot more weight.

Maybe it's an old truck that you all used when learning how to drive a stick shift for the first time with your father. Maybe it's a painting that, even though it's not from a famous artist, adorned your parents' living room wall for as long as you can remember. Maybe it's the Christmas decorations that you all put up together when you were kids, carols playing on the radio as lights lit up the living room. You wanted to hang them at your own home with your children.

These are things that may have no monetary value, but they mean everything to you because they give you that connection to your parents. They connect you with the past. You value that far more than a little more money.

No specifics

Part of the issue here may be that your parents, as specific as they were with money, just did not offer you a solid plan for every little trinket in the house. Your sister says that your mother promised something to her, your brother says that he doesn't believe her and you say that you have loved that item far more than either of them. You assumed it would go to you.

Even parents who try to plan well often spend far too little time on personal property. To your parents, that painting was just something they bought on a whim. The Christmas decorations were nice, but easily replaceable. The old truck should have gotten sold for something more reliable. They didn't put anything like that in the estate plan because they didn't realize how important those assets were.

Your options

Are you and your siblings entering an estate dispute for any reason? Make sure you know exactly what legal options you have.

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