Inheriting an Heirloom: How to Take Care of Specific Items in Your Will

As you live you collect things of value. A lot of these items may be worth a significant amount of money, but more than that they may just be very special to you and a member of your family. Maybe you have a wedding ring that has been in the family for generations, or a grandfather clock that was your great-great grandfather's. These timeless antiques and pieces may have more memories than any photo, and you will want to make sure that they go to the right people.

Regardless of what your treasures are, you will want to make sure that they are all accounted for in your will. It may seem selfish, but it's actually a wise idea to let your close friends and family know what you plan to do with all of your heirlooms. Any valuable jewelry or special furniture that you own should be given a lot of thought, and you will want to place these items with the right person. By talking to your children, grandchildren, or other beneficiaries before you pass away, you may be able to find out who has a special connection to certain assets in your estate.

It is usually a wise idea to get your heirlooms appraised before you put them in your will. Something that you inherited from a great grandmother or grandfather may have accumulated incredible value over time. Sometimes people are not aware that an ancestor's diary from the Civil War or a necklace that has been in the family for generations is worth a fortune. Other times, some of the items that you love the most may be the ones that are not worth that much in monetary value, but they sentimentally priceless.

To get your items appraised, you can head to an antique dealer, fine art appraiser, or an antique book dealer. These people are professionals that can often pinpoint an items market value. You can also go to an organization like the International Fine Print Dealers Association, the Art Dealers Association of America, the National Antique and Art Dealers Association of America, or the Private Art Dealers Association. These places will be able to give you a rough estimate of how much you items are worth. They usually will charge a fee to do so, so come prepared.

If you have heirlooms, then you need to be clear about where you want them to go when drafting your will. Some people may say that all personal property goes to one individual or family when they die, but you should avoid this type of language. This is when families get into intense debates, because they believe that they are entitled to an item and assume that you must have forgotten. Instead, list heirlooms and their new owners specifically. If you believe that an item is going to become a serious point of dissension in your family, you may just want to sell it. You could also make sure that there are equal trades within your will. If one child gets the $5,000 lamp, then give your other child $5,000 in other assets or in cash.

You will want to take care of your heirlooms before you pass away, because if you don't it can create a lot of family strife. One Los Angeles probate attorney says that she's seen people fight for things that value at $100 all the way up to the millions. She says that these fights over heirlooms become an intense point of conflict in families. If they can't agree to relinquish items to others, then many siblings will end up suing each other or bickering for years because they didn't get a prized antique lamp or a jeweled bracelet that they wanted. Prepare before the time comes, and you will be able to protect your family from unnecessary divisions.