A recent article in the New York Post about brothers battling over a painting from their uncle’s estate is a reminder about how important it is to designate a destination for your personal property, either through a will or by gifting while you are still alive, in order to avoid family feuds.

The brotherly feud came about after noted Manhattan interior designer David Barrett passed away and left his two nephews – Richard and Alan Barrett — “equal shares” in his $5.6 million estate. The estate included a $45,000 painting that the brothers flipped a coin over to determine who would take it home.

Richard lost the coin flip – and then flipped out, filing a lawsuit to get ownership of the painting, which held up payment to the two estate executors and his brother.

The lesson here is obvious: simply splitting an estate without detailed bequests can, and often does, lead to estate litigation.

The better solution is also a simple one: take a complete inventory of your personal property, and then designate a recipient for each asset.

Make these designations via a valid will, or even give them away while you are still living so there is no question as to who you intend to inherit your prized possessions.

You might also want to consider taking pictures of each item of personal property and writing the name of designees to receive each item on the back of the image. Reference the images in your will.

And remember, if you are a parent, your children may be what you value most. You can protect them by putting in place a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan to provide for their long-term and short-term care and by establishing a trust to fund their care if you are no longer available to provide for them. While you don’t “own” your children, of course, you do owe them the duty of ensuring their care is handled well if anything happens to you.

If you would like more information about a Kids Protection Plan, providing for your prized personal possessions or creating or updating your estate plan, call our office today at (209) 877-7457 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. Because this planning is so important, I will waive our normal $750 planning session fee for the next two people who mention this article. Call today!