Interest in keeping family heirlooms may be declining

Families have traditionally held heirlooms such as antique china, grand pianos and other items of sentimental and practical value in high regard. This may be changing for younger generations.

Young people are not necessarily as attached to historic but immobile items as previous generations, according to BridgeWorks, a business that analyzes generational trends. Instead, younger people are more likely to sell assets such as furniture in order to remain mobile, pay for education or otherwise obtain life experiences. Smaller living spaces, a greater likelihood of moving for jobs or family and convenience all play a role. For example, fine china that is not dishwasher-safe may not appeal to young people who value time as much as many traditional assets.

Wealth transfers

Baby boomers have inherited an estimated $8.4 trillion in assets, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found in a 2010 study. Baby boomers themselves also have a lifetime of accumulated assets and may wish to downsize. As such, younger people may have difficulty in making space for even valuable items when confronted with so many items to distribute.

Estate plans can account for this emerging trend. Despite many younger people wanting mobile assets, items of sentimental value still exist. Emerging cooks may want a recipe book that reminds them of childhood meals. A hunter may want a grandfather's shotgun. While it can be difficult to discuss which family members will get what property upon the death of a parent or grandparent, it can reduce conflict within a family or group of beneficiaries and allows for beneficiaries to keep treasured possessions where they belong and are useful.

A well-planned will or trust can designate certain property to individuals who want them while minimizing conflict. For example, the creator of a will or trust can appraise the fair market value of an asset that one beneficiary wants and then give equal value to another beneficiary who may rather have cash than a certain piece of property. Such planning is superior to simply leaving all personal property to children without designating what goes where.

Customizing an estate plan

Generally, the law allows people to transfer their wealth to whom they want for whatever purpose they want. For example, a person may leave money to a grandchild but designate that the money must be used for educational purposes. A person is also able to set up a trust so that beneficiaries receive no money until they are a certain age. Those seeking to create an estate plan that accounts for their wishes and distributes their assets wisely should contact an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss their options.