The purpose of a living trust is to protect the value of your estate, and to make sure your assets are given to the people or places you chose. But what about your tangible personal property – a grand piano, artwork, or even your favorite crystal vase that always receives compliments?
After an individual passes away, frequently the most contentious issues involve personal items rather than the house or the money. That crystal vase everyone liked could end up with family you did not like and it can destroy family relationships. Here’s how to avoid having your tangible personal property become the basis of arguments.
The General Assignment of Property, a document included when you signed your trust, simply assigns all your personal property to the trust. If you have specific bequests you want to make, you can make a list of the items and include the list with your trust paperwork. Make sure you sign and date the list; you can change or update the list at your convenience, making sure to sign and date it each time and to throw away the previous list.
For smaller items, such as photographs, dishes, or other sentimental items, put the intended person’s name on a sticker or piece of paper, attach the paper underneath the item, and avoid any confusion about who should receive it. Or leave notes in your trust to have a “lottery”, where each beneficiary chooses one item, continue through all beneficiaries, and continue until all items are chosen.
Beneficiaries can draw straws to see who goes first.
An even better way might be to ask your beneficiaries if there are particular items they would like; you might be surprised at their responses. This makes it easier for you and for your beneficiaries. Just remember that a bit of planning on your part can help avoid family disputes when you’re gone.