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Avoiding fights over sentimental assets

In our last post, we began a discussion about the estate-related challenges currently being navigated by the family of the late Robin Williams. A court recently ordered Williams’s children and widow to try and settle their disputes over the course of the next few months. If the family cannot resolve their differences, they will likely need to litigate the issues about which they disagree.

One of the key matters that this particular family is currently disagreeing about involves sentimental property that once belonged to Williams. His children wish to own certain pieces of sentimental property and his widow wishes to retain ownership of certain sentimental assets as well. For example, The New York Times reports that she wishes to keep the tuxedo that Williams wore on their wedding day. These pieces of clothing may not be of much monetary value but are ultimately of great sentimental value.

In order to keep your loved ones from fighting over sentimental property once you are gone, it is important to address these assets in your estate plan. How you ultimately choose to address these assets is up to you. Your estate planning attorney can aid you in making your wishes both known and legally enforceable.

Either before you formalize your wishes or after you and your attorney have drafted them, it is probably a good idea for you to communicate with your loved ones about this issue. If you ask your loved ones in advance which assets they most prize, you can help to ensure that they receive them. If you wish to make those decisions on your own, you can communicate your wishes to your loved ones in advance so that they can avoid squabbling over sentimental items later on.

Source: New York Times, “When Heirs Fight Over Assets With Sentimental Value,” Paul Sullivan, April 3, 2015

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