4 key questions to ask about family heirlooms in your estate plans

You’ve prospered in life, and you have much to pass onto your heirs — and that includes family heirlooms.

Unlike money in a bank account or a pile of stocks, heirloom items are much harder to divide. They often pose a logistical and emotional hurdle when someone is making their estate plans.

Here’s what you need to consider when dividing family heirlooms

Ultimately, the decisions about what happens to your family heirlooms are yours alone to make — but talking these questions over with your heirs can help avoid a lot of heartache and drama after you are gone:

  1. How much is it worth? Every family heirloom has emotional value, but not all heirlooms have much economic value. Valuable items should probably be appraised so that you know exactly what you’re giving each heir. That can also allow you to make adjustments to other parts of your will so the financial distributions are fair.
  2. Who wants it? Not every family heirloom will appeal to every person. Maybe your grandmother’s diamond brooch means a lot to you, but your daughters may all find it terribly fussy and old-fashioned. If the item has no sentimental value to your heirs, it may be wiser to sell it and split the proceeds among them.
  3. Can it be divided? Sometimes you can find creative solutions to problems with a family heirloom. For example, maybe all three of your daughters want your grandmother’s brooch. If so, it might be possible to remove the diamonds and make three matching pendants, instead.
  4. Should you make it a gift now? If you’re ready to pass down an heirloom, consider making it a gift to your intended recipient while you’re still alive. That keeps it out of your estate entirely — and you get the pleasure of seeing it enjoyed by your loved ones.

Working through the logistics of your estate plan is never easy. Working with an experienced estate planning advocate who understands the dynamics of your situation and your goals can help you make the best choices.