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Don't neglect the items of sentimental value in your estate plan

With people living longer, many elderly Tennesseans use up most of their accumulated savings and wealth during their lifetimes. By the time they pass away, there may not be a significant monetary inheritance for their children and other loved ones. Even people with a vast estate may prefer that most of it go to causes and organizations they feel strongly about. They may believe they've already given their children more than enough advantages to be successful.

Regardless of the monetary value of your estate, don't underestimate the things that carry sentimental value for your loved ones. Heirlooms, photos and family mementos can be extremely important inheritances. Even family stories are valuable. With the popularity of TV shows like Finding Your Roots and Who Do You Think You Are? as well as websites like and DNA testing kits, people are showing a growing fascination with their family heritage.

When developing your estate plan, don't neglect to detail how these heirlooms and other personal possessions will be passed down. You may assume that your kids will sort through them and each take what they want. However, one wealth management professional cautions that these items are often the cause of family conflict.

She says, "It's never about the money. It's always about the tangible personal property. Money can be divided pretty evenly, but the teacup that grandma always used? Maybe there's only a $2 value associated with that teacup, but because of the sentimental value and the emotions around it, that causes the controversy."

Experts advise people to talk with their family as they do their estate planning to find out how they feel about everything from vacation homes to things like their ticket stub from the historic 1969 Woodstock Music Festival. Some things you may want to give your loved ones while you're still around. Others you should detail in a memorandum to include with your will. Be as specific as possible -- especially if you have more than one of something, like a diamond ring, wedding dress, antique watch or World War II medals that you inherited from your father.

You may want to include some language explaining why you want a particular child to have something. This can help prevent disputes later. Your attorney can help you craft an estate plan that's as much about making sure that your memories live on as passing down your wealth.

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