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How to Pass Along Family Heirlooms Peacefully

Ali Katz


A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that boomers and seniors are more interested in passing along family heirlooms and history, leaving a legacy for future generations that extends beyond money.

Citing a 2012 survey by Allianz Life Insurance that found 86% of boomers and 74% of Americans aged 72+ said keeping family history alive was the most important piece of their own legacies, the WSJ article also noted that family mementoes and heirlooms are viewed by these groups as a key inheritance item.

This is why we build Family Wealth Legacy Interviews into our planning process with all of our clients, at no extra fee.  We just see it as part of the planning.

Unfortunately, family mementoes are one of the most common causes of conflict among heirs.  Here are some tips for helping to keep your family out of conflict over the things you (and they) love:

  1. Talk to your family about who will get what when the time comes, and work out the details beforehand. Then make sure all family members are aware of the choices you have made and why.
  2. Have a complete estate plan that includes a memorandum that explains the specific bequests or consider including that in a recorded audio you leave to your family so they not only hear your voice, but the stories behind the mementoes as well as your desire for who gets what and why. We do this with you as part of our Family Wealth Legacy process.
  3. Don’t play favorites, but do give thought to who you designate to receive what -- these are the things your family will most remember.
  4. To pass along family history and your values, consider creating an ethical will or Family Wealth Legacy Interview. This can take any form – a letter, a book, a website – and is not legally binding, but instead helps you pass on the intangibles that make each family unique.

If you would like more information about passing on the things you love to the people you love, contact a Personal Family Lawyer®today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.