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Sentimental items can be more important than money in a will

When many Washington residents plan their estates, they are focused on preserving wealth so that their heirs will have a good start in life. Certainly, that's a good goal. However, estate planning isn't just about money. In fact, surveys show that the estate assets people care about the most are those with mostly sentimental value.

Allianz Life Insurance Co. of America recently conducted a survey of American adults and found that large majorities were more concerned with non-monetary legacies and inheritances than they were with money. Among Americans age 72 and older, the survey found that 74 percent felt that the part of their legacy that concerned them the most was preserving their family history. Among baby boom-generation Americans, that number stood at 86 percent.

The survey also found that sentimental items were the primary interest of those who stand to inherit. Only 9 percent of baby boomers said they were eager to inherit money.

These results may give a warm, fuzzy feeling, but they point to a less pleasant reality: Many, if not most, disputes over inheritance involve family mementos and sentimental items, not dollar amounts. These disputes are also harder to resolve than purely monetary ones. Sometimes the only way to resolve a dispute over the inheritance of a bank account is to close the account and split the proceeds. That solution won't work if the dispute is over grandmother's old rocking chair - especially when the rocking chair isn't worth anything to people outside of the family.

In estate planning, it's important to consider these items. A Washington attorney with experience in estate planning can help people to make decisions about sentimental items in their wills, but perhaps more importantly, they can help people to discuss these matters with their families before they pass away. When planning one's legacy it's important to minimize the possibility of legal disputes over the estate.

Source: Market Watch, "Your heirs want this even more than your money," Andrea Coombes, Dec. 16, 2013

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