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Estate planning includes disposition of personal belongings

A person's concern for the beneficiaries of his or her estate will be best appreciated by not leaving an estate of cluttered personal possessions. In California and elsewhere, this may lead to personal altercations among beneficiaries, and to burdensome expenses and wasted time in resolving the estate. Estate planning may be facilitated by disposing of some personal possessions prior to one's death.

The accumulation of basically worthless personal belongings can be a drag on the energies of one's loved ones after a person's death. In the case of relatives who may themselves be of a hoarding disposition, a fight for seizing these items may take place, and lifelong resentment may be created. Others will have no interest in keeping the miscellaneous acquisitions that one accumulates over many decades of living.

For the latter group, the task of sorting and disposing of the hundreds and maybe thousands of personal items will be emotionally draining. They will be doing this while also in personal mourning. Some experts suggest that a person will be doing his loved ones and executors a favor by disposing of most of these possessions during life. What we may perceive to have monetary value in our own personal view of things usually turns out to be of little or no value under today's standards.

Those truly sentimental belongings, such as photos, letters, videos, works of art, true valuables and highly personal remembrances can be set aside and a letter of instructions can be given to the executor. It may even be better for the children to be told and instructed during one's life who will get which of these personal mementos. Items with significant recognized monetary value can be disposed of through specific bequests in one's will pursuant to California estate planning practice. For the remainder of the personal property belongings that are not disposed of during life, a provision in the will to have them sold at auction as soon as possible may suffice to effectively resolve potential problems. 

Source:, "7 Big Estate Planning Mistakes: Leaving A Messy Estate", Bob Carlson, March 13, 2018

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