Families argue over personal keepsakes more than money in California

A slight majority of U.S. retirees expect to leave an inheritance to their loved ones and, on average, surviving family members receive nearly $200,000 - according to a new study recently discussed in the International Business Times. However, this figure may come down due to a number of various factors, such as:

  • Rising medical care costs
  • Increasing longevity
  • Continuing economic concerns

While some heirs may be distressed by having to lower their financial expectations, most Californians of the baby boomer generation say other issues are much more important to them than money. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal published a survey outlining which items are most important to Americans in their 70s and older. Following are some of the top items survivors wish to receive from loved ones:

  • Family keepsakes
  • Family stories and history
  • Heirlooms and mementos

Unfortunately, many people fail to include their final wishes regarding personal property items in their estate planning documents, leading to family squabbles after the death of a loved one. Will and trust contests are rarely about money. Instead, families most commonly argue about family mementos because of their sentimental value.

Averting family disputes

In order to avert possible litigation among your heirs, it is advisable to do the following now, possible over the holiday season when families are already together:

  • Communicate: While it may not be in the nature of your family to discuss end-of-life matters, start talking and find out which members feel strongly about family heirlooms, a family or vacation property or other items to which they may be emotionally attached. If you are uncomfortable talking with children or other family members as a group, speak to each individually.
  • Write it down: Commit all your wishes to writing even if you provide detailed oral instructions to your family. Despite your best intentions, people forget what was said while they are mourning the death of a loved one.
  • Give gifts now: If you wish to provide special items or monetary gifts to a favorite family member without causing a family feud, demonstrate your affection while you are still living. This may allow you to provide equally to family in your will and trust, thereby possibly averting disputes.

An estate planning attorney can help

Disagreements among heirs are not always avoidable. If you are involved in a dispute as an heir, executor, trustee or beneficiary, consult an experienced estate planning lawyer for assistance. A California attorney experienced with trust and will disputes can help you and other involved parties resolve disagreements.