Page 7 - Senior Times South Central Michigan August 2020 - 27-08
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Senior Times - August 2020 Page 7
 members to remember a box of costume jewelry, while others recall diamonds and gold. If these items were not appraised during life, these issues may give rise to suspicions and hard feelings, but there is often little that can be done about it.
of the cases where there are issues regard- ing allegedly missing tangible personal property, the suggestion is made that some- one came into the home and removed items shortly after the person died. Limiting access to your home (and outbuildings) only to those people you trust, and who you have appointed to handle the settlement of the estate, can avoid a lot of mischief.
 And it is not always the marketable value of an item that matters. The “family Bible” or another family heirloom may turn up missing, and these items of so-called “sentimental value” are as likely to give rise to disputes as items that could have been sold for significant sums of money.
of, that list with a dated signature.
It is also a good idea to have items of
Everyone likes to believe that their fam- ily is not the type of family that will argue about the settlement of their estate. Turns out, in most cases, they are wrong.
Informal Statements of Intent
significant financial value appraised, and to list those items on one’s homeowners insur- ance policy. Further, with the use of our smartphones, it is easy to photograph par- ticularly important items and to keep those photographs stored on a computer where family members would know to look.
It is also common in estate administra- tion for some family members to recall statements of intent made by the person while they were alive about certain items of tangible personal property. A person might say, for example, “When I am gone, I want each of my grandchildren to have one of these guns.” But if that intent is not for- malized in their estate plan, arguments are likely to arise if those expressions are not respected after death. And, even where such expressions are acknowledged, disputes can arise as to the details of their implemen- tation. Using the gun example, arguments about which grandchild gets which gun could become equally contentious.
It is also possible to use forms provided to you by your estate planning attorney
to make detailed lists of who you want to receive specific items of tangible person- al property when you die. Michigan law allows such lists, if properly completed, to serve as an enforceable supplement to your will or trust.
Even if your will and trust are crystal clear about most issues, issues relating
to tangible personal property can and often do arise. Taking the steps suggested above, while not preventing all possible conflicts, will eliminate many issues and reduce
the potential that the event of your death will give rise to long-harbored ill feelings between the family members who
survive you.
Also in the process of preparing your estate plan, you should discuss with your lawyer the way you want the person in charge of your estate to settle disagree- ments regarding the division of tangible personal property. Do you want each child to select an item in rotation? If so, how do you decide who goes first? Do you want grandchildren to participate? Or do you simply want the person you put in charge to have discretion to divide these items as they see fit?
Attorney Douglas G. Chalgian, Chalgian & Tripp Law Offices, is both certified
in elder law by the National Elder Law Foundation and a Fellow with the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. He
has served as chair of both the Probate
and Estate Planning and Elder Law
and Disability sections of the State Bar.
Mr. Chalgian previously served on the Commission on Services to the Aging. He was one of about a dozen attorneys on the Michigan Trust Code Drafting Committee, and has been selected three times as one of the top 100 lawyers in Michigan by Super Lawyers Magazine. Mr. Chalgian writes and speaks regularly on the topics of estate plan- ning, elder law, and probate court litigation.
The solutions are obvious, although not always practical.
It would be best if people kept records of all valuable items they own (both things of financial and sentimental value), and main- tained an updated inventory of those items in a place that is known, and would be accessible, to family members when they die. Ideally people would regularly indicate changes to, or the continued completeness
Finally, there is the issue of who has access to your home when you die. In many
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