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Can I put paintings and other personal possessions in my will?

Imagine you grew up staring at dad's "Dogs Playing Poker" painting in the den, and eventually the painting became yours. Now, your kids have grown up looking at the very same painting and all of them love it.

Even though your "Dogs Playing Poker" painting isn't worth much from a monetary perspective, it's worth a great deal in sentimental value. In fact, it's worth so much to your kids that they could end up fighting over it in court after you're gone. As such, you'll want to decide who will get the painting now, indicate it in your will and tell your kids about the decision.

Bequeathing personal belongings in your will

Because personal belongings have a great deal of value from a sentimental perspective, they require some thought and consideration when including them in your will. You don't want your decisions to create resentment among your heirs, so you'll want to be as fair as possible.

Let's say you give "Dogs Playing Poker" to your son because he loves poker and -- as much as your daughter loves the painting, too -- you feel your son has an even stronger personal connection to it. You'll want to balance out this gift by giving something of equal sentimental value to your daughter. Perhaps you give your daughter your collection of silver coins, or another painting of equal sentimental value.

Whatever you decide in your estate plan, hold a family meeting and tell your kids who is going to get what -- and why you've made the decision. Also, be open to your kids suggestions about their wants and wishes so that everyone feels fairly treated. This might require a little bit of work and foresight on your part, but it could prevent family arguments over trivial matters after you're gone.

Do you want to include personal belongings in your estate plan?

Whenever you include personal belongings in an estate plan, make a complete and thorough list of all the items you plan to bequeath. Also, be sure to ask your loved ones if there's anything special you'd like them to have. In addition, consider whether there could be any tax liabilities attached to these belongings if they are of considerable value and have increased in value since you originally purchased them.

Finally, be sure to understand the legal steps required to include personal belongings in your will, so that the asset distribution plan you create will hold up against any challenges in court.

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