Unlike financial assets, which can generally be divided easily amongst heirs, tangible personal property is unique. And the complexity of distributing a lifetime’s worth of possessions is something that many people overlook.
Sometimes, planning for the money and liquid assets in your estate can actually be the easiest part. While that does mean dealing with myriad legal codes and taxes, nevertheless, liquid assets are conceptual and easily divided. What happens when the most important assets are tangible?
Unfortunately, tangible assets usually are the most important to your family and, as Deborah Jacobs recently pointed out, are easily the ones to tear apart a family. The case she discusses is how a plastic bowl tore three grandchildren apart.
Of course, this particular bowl wasn’t just any bowl… it was the bowl she had always used to feed them breakfast when they stayed over as children. Family attachments are really hard to quantify, as there’s no science to it, no calculator to cheat by, and not even the IRS issues guidelines.
When it is all said and done, it’s the family attachments you’re planning for in the first place. Therefore, in order to plan properly, first you need to understand your family. It could be a small plastic bowl, or it could be something even more complicated like a painting, a gun collection, or the family cottage.
Proper planning ought to include discussing these issues with your family and then making. Communication is key. Remember: The IRS may define an “asset” entirely differently from how you and your family would define it.
Reference: Forbes (October 24, 2011) “Little Things Can Cause Big Fights When A Relative Dies”