Originally published on fwtx.com on November 3, 2021
BY: KATHY CHRISTOFFEL, CTFA
Market President, Argent Trust-Fort Worth Market
Over our lifetimes, we tend to accumulate a lot of stuff — some of it with monetary value, but most of it holding primarily sentimental worth. When the death of a loved one occurs, all of their belongings have to go somewhere. But unfortunately, many people don’t do the necessary estate planning beforehand to clarify what should happen to those possessions after their passing, leaving unanswered questions, confusion and, sometimes, tension among family members.
A collection of Dallas Cowboys memorabilia that took decades to build may be passed down to a son or daughter who’s not a sports person. Or, alternatively, multiple siblings might feel equally entitled to a one-of-a-kind item, like a mother’s wedding ring.
The difficulty of losing a family member doesn’t have to be made worse by creating hard feelings among loved ones. If you have an estate that contains valuable, irreplaceable or complex assets, here are a few tips to consider during estate planning:
1| During estate planning, be clear about your wishes.
Although it can be tough to broach the topic of death with family members, it makes things so much easier when parents and children are able to have an open conversation about their inheritances. One benefit of doing so is that it provides an opportunity for kids to speak up if there’s an item they would like to have — or that they would prefer to go to someone else.
2| Distinguish monetary from sentimental value.
Many of us own a few antiques or pieces of jewelry. Although we might assume those items are worth a lot of money, the truth is that they’re often hard to sell and, in many cases, don’t command the prices they might have in decades past. Art is similar — unless the creator of the work is renowned among collectors, it’s unlikely that a piece is going to be worth much, and even museums might not have the space to keep a donated work in their collections. However, if the value of some of your assets isn’t obvious to the layperson, it’s helpful for the original owner to explain that to family members or their advisor during the estate planning process.
3| Simplify your estate wherever possible.
If you’re trying to make your inheritance as hassle-free for your descendants as possible, your best bet is to convert as many assets as you can to cash or consider donating these assets to a worthy cause. On the other end of the spectrum are complex assets like vacation properties and timeshares, which might require ongoing costs for upkeep, property taxes and HOA fees. This can put an additional strain on descendants who might not even have the free time to enjoy these properties.
Kathy Christoffel CTFA is market president at Argent Trust-Fort Worth Market of Argent Financial Group, the parent company of AmeriTrust. Argent is a leading, independent, fiduciary wealth management with offices across 12 Southern states.