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When Your Children Don’t Want to Inherit Your Personal Items: An Estate Planning Guide to Decluttering


In the field of estate planning law, there is much talk of reducing the value of your probate assets, and therefore reducing the estate taxes, by giving your heirs part of their inheritance while you are alive.  Ways to do this include transferring assets to a trust, transferring the title of a house to the designated heir, or giving your family members cash gifts each year, provided that these gifts are in amounts low enough to be covered by the annual gift tax exclusion.  Ask anyone who has lost an elderly parent, though, and they will tell you that the hardest part of dealing with the inherited assets is not the legal process of probate, but rather, deciding what to do with their deceased parent’s personal possessions.  Sorting through a deceased family member’s belongings and deciding what to do with them is time-consuming and emotionally taxing.  Therefore, it is important to account for your movable property in your estate plan.  A Maryland estate planning lawyer can help you make financially sound choices about what to do with personal items that could become part of your estate.

Expensive Items Your Children Don’t Want

Do you own any family heirlooms?  Most people answer one of two ways.  Either they only own a few personal items (such as pieces of furniture or jewelry) that belonged to their grandparents, or else they own many of them, but all except their favorites are gathering dust in boxes in the basement.  Many of the items that people passed down to their children in the hopes that these items would retain their resale value now seem impractical, if not burdensome.  These are just some once-valuable items that your children will regard not as a treasure but as an albatross around their neck:

  • Fine china plates and teacups that you can’t wash in the dishwasher
  • Silver or silver-plated utensils or serving dishes, which must be polished after each use
  • Cloth dinner napkins, which require ironing

These items come from a time when wealthy people frequently entertained guests in their homes, with different dishes and table linens for every occasion.  They could expect that servants would spend hours hand washing the china and linens, polishing the silver, and ironing the tablecloths and napkins.

What to Do with Your Valuables When Your Children Don’t Want Them

Ask your children which personal items of yours, if any, they want to inherit.  Their answers might surprise you.  Maybe your daughter wants the coffee table that has been in your living room since her childhood.  Maybe your son wants his newborn baby to wear the christening gown that has been in your family for generations.  Give them the items you want, and consider the rest clutter to be dealt with as part of your estate planning strategy.  You can donate it to museums, libraries, nursing homes, or anywhere that will take it; remember that charitable donations are tax-deductible.  You can sell the most valuable items to consignment shops, and it is even easier to find buyers who will give you cash for gold or silver.

Let Us Help You Today

The more thorough your estate plan, and the earlier you start working on it, the better.  Contact the Washington DC estate planning lawyers at Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. for help.




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