How to create a digital estate plan
When a loved one leaves a Will, most of the big things will be taken care of. The house, the car, maybe some savings, shares or other assets; but what about the rest of it? What should you do with all their personal property, furniture, artworks, ornaments and trinkets?
Sometimes these small, memorable pieces are much more sentimentally valuable to people who were close to the deceased than any amount of money or property would be. Because they were not accounted for in the Will, deciding who should get what falls on the shoulders of the Executor, and can make for some trying decisions. Here are some tips on dealing with personal property after a death.
Choices available to you
There may be explicit instructions in the Will that say personal possessions need to be dealt with in a certain way. Maybe the person wanted them to be sold and proceeds to be donated to charity, or perhaps they expected everything to go to a single beneficiary. Whatever they decided, or didn’t decide, it’s important to inspect the Will before attempting to deal with any of their belongings.
If there are items not accounted for in the Will, you have a number of choices available to you:
- House clearance: Many companies will offer to clear out the entire house for a fixed fee. Their offered prices are usually fairly low, but it does avoid the family going through the heartache of doing it themselves.
- Private sale: Liquidating a lifetime of memories can be tough, but will usually result in greater fundraising than house clearances will offer.
- Charitable donations: Local charities will be very grateful of good quality items, and will often come and pick up things like furniture for you.
- Specialist auctions: If your loved one had a specialist collection, for example stamps, war medals or coins, it could be worth putting them in a specialist auction for a collector to buy. By using Lexikin for your life possessions, you can get asset valuations, making this process even easier.
- Family distribution: Other members of the family, no doubt, will have pieces that they treasure and would like to be offered. The Executor’s decision is final, but it can be nice to take others feelings into account.
For most families, a combination of these above methods is usually appropriate, as there will be a great variety of things to sort out from their loved one’s home.
Coping with conflict
Distributing property is not always as straightforward as we might like it to be. Particularly where there are multiple children or a number of other family members who need to be included, some conflicts over who gets what can sometimes arise. Here are some ideas for sorting things out, in a fair and (hopefully) peaceful manner:
- Take turns to pick: If you can all be in the same place at the same time, it can be useful to take turns in picking items to hold on to.
- Use coloured stickers: You can get family to place coloured stickers on the things they want to keep. Any items which have only one coloured sticker on will automatically go to that person, whereas those which end up with more than one can be further debated later on.
- Get appraisals: If your loved one had some items which were highly valuable but not included in the Will, it is worth getting assets valued to make distribution more fair. For instance, if they possessed a painting valued at five figures, it would only be fair to ask the recipient of this item to pay an amount to the other beneficiaries to compensate.
- Copy what you can: Things like family photos and videos can be difficult to distribute fairly, but thankfully are very easy to copy. Digital images and videos can be distributed electronically, and even printed photos can be copied into high quality digital or hardcopy images. These can then be stored in your own Lexikin ‘Life’ section to pass on to your family.
In most cases, it will be relatively straightforward to reach a decision on the ownership of these items that is agreeable to all involved. However, if things aren’t so easy to smooth over, you could consider bringing in a neutral third party, such as a mediator, who will be able to help everyone get to the root of the issues.
Proceed with caution
As the deceased person’s Executor, you may feel that you know them very well and therefore have a good idea of what they would have wanted. However, if you have not seen the Will with your own eyes, and have not had all the details of the Estate’s accounts released to you yet, be cautious about making assumptions.
Debts on the Estate need to be paid first, which could result in some items needing to be sold. If you’ve already given these items away it could land you in trouble. Also, you wouldn’t be the first Executor to be surprised by an unexpected bequeath in the Will, so beware of giving things away before you’ve inspected the Will yourself.
And Lexikin can take the stress out of all of the above. Sign Up now and create your digital legacy.
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