Items with sentimental value can be a wonderful thing during the asset distribution process, after someone passes away and while the estate administrator ensures that the instructions in the will are followed. These items are often family heirlooms, allowing them to be passed down from one generation to the next.
But these items can also be highly problematic. Multiple people may have a sentimental connection to a single item. The item cannot be divided in half, and it cannot be sold. Either action would deprive the beneficiaries of the sentimental value, which is the whole reason they want that asset in the first place. Examples include jewelry, books, artwork, guns, clothing and even vacation properties.
How do you resolve these disputes?
The best way to resolve a dispute about sentimental items is to follow the estate plan. Ideally, the administrator has a will stating which assets go to which people. If the sentimental items are named, then that beneficiary should receive the item. Even if the other beneficiaries are unhappy about it, there is at least a plan in place.
Things get more difficult, though, when the estate plan doesn’t mention sentimental items. It may just leave it up to the beneficiaries to divide them on their own. This is when things can get complicated and people have to work together to decide how assets should be distributed and how disputes should be resolved.
As you can imagine, this can be a long process that involves complex legal steps. If you and your family find yourselves going through this, it’s imperative that you understand what options you have.