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How to Give Heirlooms in Your Pocatello Estate Plan so Your Family Doesn’t Fight

By Lane V. Erickson, Pocatello Estate Planning Attorney

It may come as a surprise to you, but as an experienced Pocatello estate planning attorney I have come to learn that most family fights are not over money and houses and cars. Even though these types of fights do happen, it is my experience that the most intense family fights and hard feelings often start over smaller items that have significant sentimental value. Even though these fights are often over smaller things, they usually have a devastating impact on the relationships within the family.

At the Racine law office our goal as the premier Pocatello estate planning firm is to assist each client in the creation of their own personalized Pocatello estate plan. We want to help our clients have a plan that will help avoid any family fights that could arise after our client has passed away. In helping our clients, our team of Pocatello estate planning attorneys which includes partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley work to understand the dynamics of your family relationships and of the property that you have. We then work to help you come up with a plan of distributing your money, property, and assets in such a way that your relationships can continue.

Because heirlooms are meaningful to your family, there can often be sharp feelings about them. Several members of your family may all want the same things. If you are preparing your estate plan which contains heirlooms, here are three specific things you should consider that may help you avoid family fights when it comes to giving your heirlooms away through your Pocatello estate plan.

1. Big Fights Often Happen Over Small Items

As was mentioned above, the main thing to do is to not think about dollar amounts when it comes to creating your Pocatello estate plan. Rather consider the individual items of property that you own and how your family feels about those items. Even though the amounts of money and property you will give to others is important, it may not be the most important thing to your family.

As an example, consider a circumstance where a child made an item of furniture for his father and had given it to him as a gift while the father was alive. Later, when the father passed away, a different sibling either took that item of furniture when the estate was distributed or had it given to them by the father through his last will and testament. Even if the child who made the furniture received a substantial amount of money or other property from his father’s estate, how would this child feel about not having his father give that item of furniture back to him. I think through this example we could all agree that this child’s feelings could be hurt. Because of this, it’s possible that this circumstance could lead to a family fight even though the item of furniture probably did not have a significant monetary value.

In other circumstances we often have clients who come to us who have told us that they have allowed their children to put tape on the back of furniture or other items of property with their name on it. These parents believe that because this child has put their name on the back of these items that child should receive those items after they pass away. This will work, so long as all the family members agree to this type of disposition. However, because tape with a name on it has no legal significance in Idaho, if any other family member disagrees, the tape with names on it will not be used as a way of determining who receives the property.

The single best thing you can do is to be clear and concise in your instructions about who will receive each item of property. It’s also important for you to consider the significant sentimental value certain items of property may have for family members. If you know that a family member feels strongly about a piece of property then you should consider what you could do with that property. This is especially true if more than one family member feels strongly about that item.

2. Eliminate Surprises for Your Family

The second thing that you should consider is how important it is to eliminate surprises for your family after you pass away. Again, this can be accomplished through your written last will and testament. Your will is the document used to specifically describe the family members that will receive each item of your assets, property, and money after you have passed away. In your will, you have the ability to provide specific instructions about who will receive each of these things. However, because it is your will, there is no specific requirement that you give a copy of it to your children before you die. While some parents do this very thing, in some instances it’s not a good idea. Only you can decide whether you believe it would be good for your family to review a copy of your will before you die.

However, providing a copy of your will is not the only way that you can communicate with your family about what your intentions are. You can easily sit down with your family and have a discussion with them as a group, or with each family member individually so that they can understand what you intend to do. We do find that in most instances it is good for parents to have discussions with their children about what they intend to do so that after the parent passes away there are no surprises.

Even if all you do is inform your children that you have a written last will and testament and that this document contains your final wishes, this will help your children understand that you do have a plan. After you pass away, your children will be entitled to read through your last will and testament and see the instructions that you have left.

3. Use Your Specific Gift List in Your Will

In addition to communicating with your family about the fact that you have a last will and testament you also have another tool available to you that you can use to help avoid family fights. This includes a written specific gift list that is considered a part of your last will and testament. This is a form that Idaho statutes allow you to add as a part of your last will and testament. It is filled out in your own handwriting and gives you the ability to make a specific gift of tangible personal property to whoever you choose whenever you choose to do it.

We prepare this form for our clients and included as part of their last will and testament. It has instructions that help our clients understand how it can be used. Our purpose in using this form is so that our clients don’t have to keep coming back to us each time they decide to make a specific gift to a family member or some other person. Rather, our clients are able to fill the form out in their own handwriting whenever they desire to without having to come back to us to revise their last will and testament.

By using this form after meeting with us, our clients have more time to think about the gifts they want to give to others. Additionally, we find that our clients often change their minds about the gifts they want to give to others. This form allows them to do that. They can either use a new form or can simply scratch out the gift that they have written out and write it out in a different way if they choose. And this way, our clients have control of the gifts they make to their family members of specific items of property.

Enlist a Pocatello Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to Help You

Our experienced Estate Planning team of attorneys can help you and your family with your Pocatello estate plan or with your probate needs. Whether you are seeking your own customized Estate Plan or need a Probate for a loved one who has passed, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation with the Racine Olson team. You can also email us directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Pocatello Estate Planning and Probate problems.

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