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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

With nearly 20 years of experience in assisting clients with their estate planning and helping their families with probate issues later, I have seen numerous problems that arise with property that is held by a person who passes away. It seems to be more and more common that nobody wants your stuff. The main reason for this seems to be the generation gap and the difference this brings to what each generation believes is valuable and worth owning.

We often help our clients work through these issues while they are alive so that they don’t become a big problem after they die. Here are three specific things that you should know about giving your property away to your family after you die.

1. Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

The first, and perhaps most important thing for you to understand is that what you may think is valuable others might think is just junk. Through my experience I have often found that this is true regardless of what the actual value of the asset is. To be sure, most family members would see the value in gold coins, or a gun collection, or a valuable stamp collection. However, the wall spoons that you collected from every National Park you ever visited during your lifetime may appear to be nothing more than junk to your family, even though it has huge sentimental value to you.

This example is not used to demean wall spoons because personally I think they’re pretty cool. However they really have no value other than as a decoration. Many people would not want this kind of a decoration in their home particularly if they were not the ones who collected the spoons themselves. The spoons will likely provide no memories for them and as a result will likely have no sentimental value either. So as you consider whether the assets and property that you own (such as the wall spoons) has any value to anyone else remember the off quoted statement one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is also true in the reverse.

2. Talk With Your Family While You Are Alive

The second thing that you should know about giving your property away is that it is not a bad idea to talk with your family about it while you are alive. The easiest way for you to learn whether your family thinks your treasured property is valuable or is junk is to simply ask them. You may also find that in casual conversation family members may admire items of property that you own as they talk about them. If they do it’s likely they believe there is some value to those items as well.

Keep in mind that the alternative is also true. If your family makes comments to you or asks you about why you collected certain items or why you like them this may indicate to you that they don’t understand why you believe they have any value at all. Just keeping your ears open during regular conversation can help you appreciate how they feel about the property you own.

3. But, Don’t Make Any Promises You Can’t Keep

The final thing you should know is that while it is good for you to have these conversations with your family, you shouldn’t make any promises that you can’t keep about who will receive your property. We often have children of parents who have passed away come in who are upset because they specifically remember their parents promising them they will receive a certain piece of property after they die. However, when the probate is completed these children learn that their parent actually named a different child to receive that property instead of them. This often results in misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Believe me, children remember things better that parents do when it comes to these types of conversations. So if you have a conversation with a child about them receiving a certain item of personal property from you after you die, you better make a note of that in your last will and testament document. We help with this by providing to our clients a specific gift list that they can fill out in their own handwriting and that automatically becomes a part of their written last will and testament. By doing this you are able to keep your promises and avoid hurt feelings.


When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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