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The response received from our recent blog on how to handle personal property in dealing with estate planning was an eye opener.  From precious heirlooms to misperceptions about what’s trash and what isn’t, it’s clear that from aging parents to siblings to what to hand down to our own children, this issue seems to invade almost all of our lives in one form or another.   

At the risk of staying on my soapbox about our unhealthy relationship with “stuff” a bit too long, I’ve decided to continue down the road with this topic, focusing on various angles through the remainder of the year.  This week, I’d like to start by recapping some of the great tips and comments we received from clients, attorneys and other readers that I thought were well worth sharing.
        One client shared a story of a grandmother who would promise something to offspring on various occasions, but could never remember who she’d promised what.  The result was multiple items being promised to multiple people, causing disappointment within the family.  In addition, certain items of sentimental value to some family members were sold to an antiques dealer as the grandmother simply had no idea they meant anything to anyone.  The bottom line here – the importance of communication when it comes to these sometimes difficult situations and documenting whatever is ultimately communicated.
        A recommendation came from a local attorney specializing in helping families, especially those with family businesses, with discussions around succession, philanthropy and a wide range of strategic planning.  If the time has come to inventory and auction a family member’s assets, he recommends Everything But the House.  Located in Cincinnati, EBTH will inventory and run an online auction to liquidate.  This helps the seller retain top dollar for their items as it’s not subject to a one day only, live event.
Coincidentally, a family friend used this service when downsizing from their family home to a riverfront condominium.  They enjoyed the process and handled the emotional component by taking a digital photo of each and every item.  Now, whenever a sentimental urge strikes, they can “visit” their old possessions via a well organized catalog stored on their computers and reminisce.
        Last but not least, a local estate planning attorney provided this straightforward tip.  He learned a while back that it’s great to ask grandma or grandpa, mom and dad or whoever in the family may need the nudge, to label items, especially artwork.  This avoids the potential debates over whether the item is truly worth good money, or was a $10 print from Home Goods.
I thank all of those who sent comments and tips on how they’ve handled their “stuff” issues and certainly felt that these were worth sharing.  Please continue to pass along your stories and observations about how you and your family have handled issues surrounding “stuff” in your lives. 

Have a great week!

Chip Workman, CFP®
E-mail Chip / TAAG Website