By: Brendan J. King

In working with clients on their estate plans we often deal with those who are downsizing and we are struck by the number of people who are convinced that their children and/or grandchildren want their “stuff” after they move into smaller accommodations or pass away. Be prepared for disappointment: while inheriting certain possessions and family heirlooms from your parents was something you looked forward to back in the day, your heirs may have a very different mindset.

Times have changed –significantly. The accumulation of material goods was once a cornerstone of the American dream dating back to the post-World War II economy, when returning veterans and their families left cities behind for a better life in the suburbs. That generation married young and the gifts they received were used and treasured for life and, often, meant to be passed along to children. However, because of a variety of social, cultural, economic reasons and changing style and tastes, this is no longer the case among Millennials, Boomers or Gen X’ers. Many are living in smaller homes and are in the process of downsizing themselves. Therefore they do not have room for more “stuff” – known in legal terms as “tangible personal property”.  The younger generations tend to acquire household goods that they consider temporary or even disposable from online retailers or stores rather than waiting to inherit them from parents or grandparents.

Rather than assume your heirs want your jewelry, antiques, art, silverware and collectibles etc., consider discussing your tangible possessions with your heirs to explore their feelings on the matter. As disappointing it may be to learn that they do not want most of your tangible personal property, the wise move would be to accept their decisions and develop a plan to handle unwanted possessions. There are professionals such as move managers who can help you with that process. Should you have treasures that you believe might have substantial monetary value, consider involving a professional appraiser. Who knows, an appraisal might just change an heir’s decision to take one of your gifts, or even your wishes regarding its disposition when you are gone.

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