Family Feuds—Heirs Battling Over Assets With Sentimental Value

When we think about heirs fighting over assets, it is the big ticket items that typically come to mind, such as the family home, investments, bank accounts, and the like. However, it is often sentimental assets—a mother’s necklace, for example, or a father’s watch—that cause the most contention. This is particularly true in the case of blended families. Worse, battles over sentimental assets often lead to hard feelings that can last for years or even permanently sever relationships between family members.

Preventing Heirs From Fighting Over Items With Sentimental Value

Many people believe that a statement in a will or trust that basically says ‘tangible personal property should be divided as my heirs see fit’ will solve the problem. However, this can lead to a host of potential conflicts. A better approach is to put specific items that you believe are of interest to certain family members in writing, and then discuss your decisions in advance with your family. In this way, many emotionally charged disputes can be avoided.

No-Contest Clause

What if you are convinced that a former spouse, one of your children, or the spouse of one of your children will cause trouble no matter what you specify in your will? In this case, you might want to consider a no-contest clause. In essence, this clause makes the risk of challenging your will outweigh the potential benefit of doing so. A no-contest clause generally stipulates that if a beneficiary contests the will’s provisions or its validity, his or her interest in the will is forfeited.

It is important to note, however, that you have to leave the heir in question enough of an inheritance to motivate him or her not to challenge the will.

If you’d like to discuss more about sentimentally valued assets or your estate planning needs, contact us for a consultation.

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Estate Planning

Alexander S. Keenan, Esq.
Alexander S. Keenan, Esq.
Hi, I'm Alex. I consider myself an approachable attorney. I have called the beautiful Hudson Valley home for most of my life. After focusing on things like international commercial law and litigation, I took a step back and pivoted towards helping my community plan for life's greatest moments. My firm specializes in estate planning, small business law, and real estate law.