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The late comedian George Carlin had a famous routine about “stuff” where he called our homes “just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff!”  But to most of us, our stuff is more than just stuff, it has sentimental as well as monetary value, especially when it comes to jewelry, art collections, antiques and so on. 

Creating an estate plan for your stuff is encouraged by many estate planning professionals since many fights over an estate can begin with the distribution of personal effects.  Here are some options for dealing with your stuff:

Make a list.  Create an inventory of your personal effects and query family members about which items of yours they would like to receive after you’ve gone.  Then make a list of who gets what and include it with your estate planning documents.  Be sure to re-check it each year in case you no longer own an item or change your mind. 

Lottery.  Set up a lottery system for the personal effects that didn’t make it on to your list – have heirs draw numbers to decide on a “pick” order or do it by age – and let your loved ones choose from what’s left over until everything is gone or items remain that no one wants.  The unwanted items can then be sold with the proceeds divided equally or donated to charity.

Let heirs decide.  You could also just specify that your heirs can decide who gets what from what is left over from your list; your personal representative or successor trustee can be the tiebreaker for any disputed items.

Based in Irvine, the Flanigan Law Group is a California estate planning, administration and litigation legal services law firm.  For more information on California wills and estate plans, contact the Flanigan Law Group at 949-450-0041.