“The best thing your clients can give their family members is love, of course, a Financial Planning Magazine article begins. But when it comes to passing down the hard assets, things can get tricky, Zhang cautions..
As estate planning professionals at Geyer Law, we know. It’s far easier to split cash assets or investment accounts among beneficiaries; dealing with antiques, artwork, and real estate holdings is a whole other matter. The reasons are many and varied:
One reason the transfer of tangible assets is so complex is that the appraised value of those assets is constantly changing In addition, the current gift and estate tax exemption (now $12,092,000 per person) is set to fall to approximately $6,030,000 per individual (after adjusting for inflation) on January 1, 2026. But, tax issues aside, there’s the question of whether beneficiaries are prepared to accept the responsibility of caring for that asset, not to mention that their immediate need might be for easy-to-use-now cash assets rather than heirlooms or illiquid treasures..
Different donees may well have differing tastes when it comes to artwork, furniture, or even property. Rather than assuming that the benefactor’s belongings should be evenly split among heirs,” Nicolas Tavorinina of Morgan Stanley’s Private Wealth Management Division suggests to clients to apportion possessions among family members based on who will appreciate them the most. Not every adult child feels a strong sentimental attachment to a parents’ vacation home, for example, and it is important to understand how such assets will be valued and distributed so as not to cause issues among children following your death.
“Parents need to recognize that the younger generation may not want the burden of large antiques or giant collections,” says Colin Korzec, Head of Trust and Estate Settlement Services, Bank of America. “Encourage your heirs to create a list of desired items. In some cases, clients have had family members walk around their house, putting stickers on the objects they want”. Meanwhile, Bank of America’s Jennifer Galvagna suggests drafting a non-binding, changeable Personal Property Memorandum.
At Geyer Law, we agree that while love is indeed the best thing our clients can give to their family members, it’s important for them to think about the best way to handle those “tricky” hard assets.
– by Rebecca W. Geyer