A major element of estate planning, along with planning for financial assets, is planning for the distribution of personal items. From art collections to antique tea sets, many Texas families have amassed significant collections of personal items that have both monetary and sentimental value. However, younger generations are increasingly turning these items down or eventually selling them, citing a lack of space or disinterest in the items themselves.
The problem of orphaned heirlooms also grows out of changing tastes and changing lifestyles. Where it was once expected and perfectly reasonable to have a basement or attic filled with family artifacts, smaller homes and more modest lifestyles have caused people to have to prioritize between saving things and saving money and space. The economic recession has also lead to an increased need for mobility among working-aged people who may have to move to another city or state to find work and cannot continually transport valuables like grandma’s china or antique military swords.
The change is also generational in many ways. Grandparents who are passing down their belongings now came from the Great Depression generation, where it would be unthinkable to discard a perfectly good piece of furniture or divest of items that held value. Not only have items like furniture become less expensive, but less emotional emphasis is placed on having the right sorts of things.
Figuring out what to do with all of these items is very important both to preserve essential parts of a family legacy and in terms of creating a realistic estate plan. In some cases, grandparents or parents may not want to admit that their family would discard their beloved crystal animal collection, but know deep down that it is not practical to keep. This is where estate planning can help facilitate practical discussions and come to an agreement while the owner of the belongings is still around.
Source: The Star Tribune, “No longer saved for generations, family heirlooms are being shed” Kim Palmer, April 22, 2013
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