Consider the distribution of personal property in your will

Many California residents have prized personal possessions. These can include pieces from a hobby collection, such as antique china, coins or cars. Other items may have been handed down through family generations, such as a grandfather clock, a jewelry set or artwork. While some of these objects may have substantial monetary value, they likely also have a great deal of value for reasons personal to the owner.

The question becomes: How should one provide for the distribution of personal property in a will? Furniture and paintings cannot be as neatly divided as stocks or money, and separating items in a collection can often decrease their value. There are steps a person can take before drafting a will to give specific gifts of property to friends and family members.

An important initial step is engaging in communication with potential recipients of property and asking them what they would like to have. This process can reveal conflicts between people who want the same item. It can also show whether some items are unwanted, and whether selling them or donating them to an organization or charity might be more worthwhile. When two or more people want the same piece of property, a possible solution may be to let the recipients share it, if practicable.

There are also other issues to consider. For example, an antique car and a jewelry set may differ significantly in their monetary value, which will invariably fluctuate with time. People concerned about equal distribution of property among children and other loved ones may want to turn to appraisers to discover the value of what each person stands to receive.

Source: The Register-Guard, "When heirs loom over heirlooms," Vanessa Salvia, Mar. 28, 2012.

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