In some ways, dividing family heirlooms can be more difficult than dividing cash and other financial assets when you’re doing your estate planning. Financial assets may be worth far more, but at least you can divide these types of assets equally.
With heirlooms, there’s often no way to literally divide something. If two heirs want the same item, one of them has to be disappointed. So what should you do?
Do the kids want them?
First off, make sure that people actually want the items. Some parents are surprised to learn that items they consider iconic or important are just not loved by their children. It may be easiest to sell or auction off unwanted items in advance and then split the money in your will.
What do they expect?
Next, try to find out what the children expect. Have you promised anything to anyone, even in passing? You may have forgotten the conversation, but it may have been very important to them. Does one heir have a special connection to a specific asset that you never realized was so strong? You want your plan to match their expectations.
Talk about the plan
Finally, as you create your estate plan, talk to the children about what you have decided. They may be unhappy with certain portions of it, and there is still time to update the plan and make alterations. Even if you keep things the same, just making sure that the children know what is coming can help to eliminate disputes. If there’s ever a question about how something should go, a family conversation has the best chance of resolving it.