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Heirs find family keepsakes more valuable than money

Contrary to popular belief, the most valuable assets left by the aging parents of baby boomers may not be monetary assets but instead can be meaningful family keepsakes. Unfortunately, though, unless family members talk about these special mementos before they become an inheritance, expectations and misunderstandings could lead to family conflicts. With that in mind, Florida residents may want to sit down with their loved ones to discuss exactly what to do with the family heirlooms.

The 2008 economic downturn severely depleted the net worth of many boomers and their parents. A 2012 survey taken by Allianz Life Insurance found that, given the financial hit to both groups, 64 percent of boomers consider personal possessions, such as family mementos, to be the most significant part of the family legacy. Only 9 percent of boomers believed money to be the primary aspect of their inheritance.

Committing a plan to paper is an important follow-up to an honest discussion about family heirlooms. For example, you may attach a memorandum to a will to detail which family keepsakes will go to individual heirs. If there is more than one item, such as a pearl necklace or a wristwatch, be sure to describe the possession in detail, and attach a photo to the memorandum to eliminate any doubt.

The distribution of estate assets can be a complex issue, even in simple estates, and sometimes naming a family member to take on this task can result in suspicion of favoritism during an already emotional time. To prevent family conflicts, some estate owners opt to name a professional executor to handle their wills and distribute family heirlooms.

Alternately, the family member you name as the executor may decide to hire a professional executor.

To learn more about asset distribution in Florida, please see our pages on estate administration.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "How to Avoid Estate Fights Among Your Heirs," Andrea Coombes, Dec. 15, 2013

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