If you look around your home, as you look at different items you can probably reflect on different memories and stories attached to certain items around the house—maybe your granddad’s pocket watch or the china that your mother gave you.  And chances are, those items are also sentimental to your children or other family members.

One way to pass these on to your family is by including a detailed list of who you want to receive which items. Generally, this list is included as part of your Last Will and Testament or Living Trust.

However, North Carolina estate planning attorney, Jackie Bedard, of Carolina Family Estate planning suggests that people may also wish to consider a less conventional route to dividing their heirlooms—consider giving some of them away while you’re still living.

There are many reasons why distributing your items of sentimental value can be more beneficial than listing them in your North Carolina estate plan. Here are just a few of those reasons:

  • You’ll be able to share those stories or memories and warm feelings together.  What better way to show affection to your loved one than by sitting down with the person and presenting them with the item before you are gone?
  • Giving the item now allows the recipient to understand why he or she is receiving the item.  Perhaps your husband bought you a pair of earrings to celebrate you becoming a grandmother for the first time, and you want to give them to your first-born granddaughter.   If you just left them to her in your Will, she might never know the reason why they were so special and why it was so important to you that she receive the earrings.
  • Disbursing items now can prevent a family fight. Sadly, families are likely to be more verbal and unkind if you are not there to defend your bequeathing choice. Prevent the drama by giving away your things now.
  • Similarly, you may not realize some of the things that may be special to your children or other family members and may take those items for granted.  This can later lead to fighting children who are disappointed when aren’t the ones to receive the special item.  For example, I once heard about a family that was fighting over grandma’s cast-iron skillet.  It was something that grandma had taken for granted, but for the children, it all reminded them of how she cooked pancakes in it every Sunday morning and was a part of a family tradition.
  • Giving your loved ones their items before you are gone allows the recipient to show the thanks she will inevitably feel towards you. This can also prevent the sadness and regret that may arise if the recipient did not have the chance to express her gratitude personally.

It’s important to remember that, even if you decide to give away your valuables before you are gone, it is still imperative that you have a sound North Carolina estate plan in place. For more information on planning an estate, trusts, and long-term care planning, simply call Cary estate planning attorney Jackie Bedard at 919.443.3035 or fill out our online form.

Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning