When actress Audrey Hepburn died in 1993, she owned a storage locker containing memorabilia of her career – costumes, photos, awards, scripts, posters and the like. In her will, she directed that the contents be divided equally between her two sons.
But some 22 years later, the two sons (who had different fathers) still can’t agree on how to divide the goods. The older son, who is now in his mid-fifties, has filed a lawsuit and asked a judge to split the possessions.
This is an extreme case, but it goes to show the importance of specifying in your estate plan what will happen not only to your financial assets but also to your personal possessions, especially if they have significant monetary or sentimental value.
In many states, you can write a “tangible personal property memorandum” that covers how personal items will be distributed. It’s separate from your will, and a big advantage is that you can change it yourself whenever you like without having to revise your entire will.
But however you handle such matters, don’t just assume that family members will agree on who gets the piano or the jewelry or the beloved photo albums. Making your preferences clear can prevent a lot of awkwardness and hard feelings later.