Family heirlooms probably make at least as much conflict between heirs as stocks, bonds, cash and other things many people see as “wealth.”
Sometimes siblings become so bitter about what happens to things of so little value that even experts in estate planning are surprised. As people plan their future, they may want to take a closer look at these “hard” or “illiquid” assets on the shelf.
Consider having your collection appraised
An objective and current value estimate for heirlooms might help to keep conflicts more realistic.
Most experts agree a certified appraisal for large collections is often worth the cost. Appraisers can be accrediting by the American Society of Appraisers, or the International Society of Appraisers or the Appraisers Association of America.
Viewers of a certain PBS antiques program know not everyone is clear about the market value of family keepsakes.
Cheap knickknacks with profound sentiments attached to them often turn out to be nearly worthless on the market and, now and then, a doorstop winds up sending all the grandkids to college.
Communicating can help heal hurt feelings
Talking to family about the objects can help you make decisions that are less likely to cause friction. It is easy to misunderstand how people feel and get the decision backward.
Almost certainly, these talks teach everyone things they never knew before and may turn petty squabbles over things into more meaningful shared history.
Your will can be another chance to communicate. Instead of leaving this to one person and that to another, explaining the practical and emotional reasons be a gift more valuable than the object.
Reviewing the decisions regularly
A will or other tool of estate planning is rarely something to set and forget. Countless changes can make the right decisions into wrong ones in an instant.
The value of objects can change with world events or fashions, such as when a new fad rejects a style of collectable furniture or the world discovers a long-forgotten painter.
You may have a falling out with one grandchild, or a nephew may suddenly take burning interest in a topic about which you have many books.
Sometimes, it may turn out that selling an object and distributing the cash is suddenly a more meaningful gift than the object itself would have been.