My Story: Leaving Heirlooms

contributed by Valerie

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I used to work for a lawyer who did wills as part of the practice. I learned some things from our clients that stuck.

  1. If an heir has particularly admired a piece, give it to that person.
  2. If the item is one made by an heir, give it back.
  3. Sit down with all potential heirs and go over the list. Get the issues out of the way while you are alive. Let the heirs battle it out. This isn't as easy as it sounds because the whole issue is an uncomfortable one and children do not like thinking of their parents' deaths. They will also behave in a much different fashion when you are present than when you are not, just like when they were little. Make sure you discuss this with your spouse, regardless if that spouse is the natural/adoptive parent or a step parent.
  4. Be willing to write down a short description of each item and put it in a hat if the heirs aren't cooperating. This sounds stupid, but not cooperating is stupid also.
  5. Don't leave step children out of the picture, especially if they have been part of the family for their growing up years. Include them in step #3.
  6. Allow for unborn grandchildren or, in my mother's case, unborn great-grandchildren if you want by adding a clause in the will to accommodate them. Don't forget adoptions.
  7. If you are going to name a non-family member as one of the heirs, let your family know, even if you think they will understand and happily "give their parent" away to them.
  8. If you find that there are valuable "unwanted" pieces, specify in the will that they should be sold and the proceeds divided by whatever percentage is necessary.

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