Sentimental items are often at the heart of estate disputes. The exact items can vary widely from family to family, but often include things like books, artwork, furniture and even everyday trinkets like serving dishes or clothes.
These disputes can sometimes be a bit confusing because the sentimental items may not have very much value. It may also be very easy to buy other items that are virtually the same – if someone wants the same dish set, they could order one online, for instance. So why is it that heirs tend to disagree over how these items should be split up?
It’s not about the value
The first thing to remember is that disputes over sentimental items are almost never about the financial value. Many estate disputes do focus on finances, such as how to divide up a bank account or whether or not the sell the parents’ home. But with sentimental items, the monetary value is not nearly as important as that emotional connection.
This creates a number of problems. One is that people will often fight harder and longer for these items than they would for more expensive financial assets. The second problem is that the common solution of selling the item and splitting the money doesn’t work. Doing so would mean that none of the family members got to keep the item that they wanted. The same goes for splitting up collections or other sets that people wanted to keep together. They could buy their own copy, but that’s not the same as having one they remember from childhood.
This can make it very difficult to determine exactly what to do with the sentimental items in the estate plan or how to resolve a dispute. Those involved in these disputes need to make sure they understand their legal options.