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Heirlooms and Estate Planning

Estate planning sometimes deals with family heirlooms. A growing trend finds family heirlooms being sold or given away by younger generations to whom these items have been left because they do not see the value in holding on to them. Millennials and generation X'ers may be left cultural and historical items from past generations in a Last Will and Testament; but more of them are shunning pieces like grandma's antique chairs and dining room table and opting for new furniture from places like IKEA. The same could be said for large hutches and the fine china that resides in them. Old scrapbooks full of family pictures and letters may wind up on the scrap heap as well.

As odd (and disappointing) as this may be to some, several factors may contribute to this change. Many new homebuyers simply do not have the space for the large pieces of furniture that dominated baby-boomer and depression era homes in their smaller townhouses or condos. Second, younger people may not see the sentimental value in "old stuff". It is like the classic "Frasier," episode, when an old clock was headed to the junkyard until its value was discovered on Antiques Roadshow and then everyone wanted it.

With this new notion in mind, older people who are preparing a Will should be mindful of whether beneficiaries would want antiques and family heirlooms. Indeed, it is noble to pass on items that have a rich family history, but keep in mind that they may end up being tossed away without any regard to their sentimental value.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help in determining the best way to handle family heirlooms, whether it is passing them on now to family members who actually want them, or selling them to people who would treasure them, even if these sales are not to family, when the sales can generate funds to help provide care to the older people who loved these heirlooms.

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