Probate Lawyers Suggest Addressing Personal Bequests In Writing
Family heirlooms and personal bequests are often overlooked when seniors are planning their estates, but experienced probate lawyers can help. Knowing how to handle individual property and special bequests is one way an elder care law firm can eliminate family discord.
Heirlooms And Heirs
An heirloom is generally any meaningful item that you plan to leave to your next of kin or a specific individual. In many cases, the item or items have as much or more sentimental value than monetary value, but family members can quickly end up fighting over individual possessions if you haven't clearly outlined to whom the items should go in a binding document. Guardianship lawyers can tell distressing stories of heirs dragging an estate through the legal system for years because there was no indication of who should have inherited what.†
Making A List: Probate Lawyers Can Help
There are usually a few special items that spring to mind when you think about leaving something behind for your heirs, but you can't assume that everyone will anticipate your wishes and divvy up your possessions appropriately. Talk to guardianship lawyers to determine what possessions you should bequest specifically rather than leaving as part of the estate as a whole. For instance, you may want your grandson to get your car. If you don't state this clearly in writing, the car could become part of your estate and sold so that the proceeds can be divided evenly between your heirs. Probate lawyers can help you come up with a list of items such as automobiles, jewelry, antique furnishings or items with sentimental value that you may want to leave to specific individuals.†
Have Your Heirlooms Appraised
Although the most important aspect of a personal bequest is usually its sentimental value, it's a good idea to have the items appraised before including them in your estate or will. Accurate appraisals can help you create a legacy that is fair for everyone. Knowing that the diamond earrings from grandma are as valuable as both the furniture and car left to a sibling can soothe an heir's hurt feelings and promote family goodwill.
Don't Assume Anything
Elder care law firms and guardianship lawyers sometimes run up against situations in which an individual is being cared for by a family member or family members who are living in the individual's home and consequently using certain possessions. When that person passes away, the caregivers may assume that possessions they've been using to provide care to the person, such as the decedent's car, is now theirs. In fact, that item becomes part of the estate unless it is specifically left to the caregiver in a personal bequest.†
Don't assume that by leaving your house to your children you are giving them a gift they can truly share. If two siblings want to sell the family home but the third person doesn't want to, it can be difficult to resolve the situation to everyone's satisfaction. For this reason, it may be more appropriate to leave the house to one child and give the others cash, property or stocks worth a similar amount of money. Guardianship lawyers can help sort out the tangle of conflicting claims, but it's best to outline any personal property bequests clearly in writing to avoid strife and ensure that each of your heirs ends up with an heirloom they can cherish long after you're gone.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peck Bloom, LLC, a trusted elder care law firm in Chicago, has a team of experienced Chicago probate lawyers and guardianship lawyers Chicago families can rely on. Visit their website for more information on personal bequests.