What are the Olympic Medals in your Estate?

July 19, 2021

When victorious athletes return home from the 2021 summer Olympic Games in August, they will be carrying priceless objects: the gold, silver or bronze medallions that were placed around their necks after their triumphs. What makes them priceless is not the metals they’re made of but the medals. Their real value comes from the personal pride they inspire in those who earned them with hard work and refusal to give up. An Olympic medal often becomes part of the winning athlete’s estate, to be passed down from generation to generation.

What are the precious medals in your estate? Photographs, artwork, collectibles, and other treasures may not be worth cold, hard cash, but they have sentimental value to your family members. If you don’t want your heirs in a gold-medal wrestling match for a coveted painting or sterling-silver tea set, take the time now to plan who will receive the mementoes.

How to Allocate Sentimental Assets

First, take a look at your possessions and determine which ones you want to allocate to specific people. (Leave out the obviously high-value objects such as antiques and jewelry, which an estate planning attorney should add to your estate plan.) Make note of which friends and family members you’d like to leave each piece to.

Be a little creative when figuring out who should get what. Do you have artists or other creative people in your family who would like one of the paintings you have collected? Perhaps a writer or teacher would like that volume of Hemingway short stories you enjoyed. If you have a well-maintained set of tools, it may be appreciated by a friend or relative who likes to make hand-crafted objects.

Be selective – and objective. Unless you medaled in an Olympics, very few of your possessions will hold the very same sentimental allure for others as they do for you. It has been reported that younger people are turning down offers of inheriting their parents’ and grandparents’ old furniture and knick-knacks, even the ones that are said to be valuable, so they are not likely to be thrilled to get a roomful of your antiques. Designate one or two pieces of a collection instead of the entire set; choose one object that speaks to an interest or hobby that one of your recipients can identify with. Make it personal with a brief note mentioning why you want that person to have the object. “You always admired this Hummel figurine when you visited, so I thought you would like to have it.”

Before finalizing the list, consider hiring a professional appraiser to look it over in case you have missed something of great value.

Don’t ask your future heirs what they’d like to inherit or invite the family over to pick their inheritance. And once the list is finished, keep it to yourself (and your attorney). We can almost guarantee that if you let any of your heirs know about this, at least one of them will object to your choices and start pressuring you or the person who has the gift they really wanted.

A thoughtfully considered estate plan will allocate your assets in just the right way, even the ones that mostly hold sentimental value.

How to Put Your Thoughts into Action

The best way to leave sentimental items to your loved ones is through a Last Will and Testament (“Will”). This is something that should be drafted by an estate planning attorney so that it meets the formalities of Florida law. Many people do not know that a handwritten Will signed at home is not a valid Will and cannot be used after a person’s death. In Florida, a Will must be signed in front of two independent witnesses (someone whose name is not mentioned in your Will) and properly notarized.

When creating your Will with your attorney, the last page of your Will can be a Separate Writing Memorandum (“Memorandum”) which allows you to hand-write in sentimental items you wish to leave to specific persons. Although the Will must be signed on a certain date, the Memorandum can be updated by you after the fact without your attorney’s involvement. Note that this memorandum cannot include cash or any mention of financial accounts. ​

Good estate planning is a marathon, not a sprint. Consult an attorney who can keep your plans on track without a lot of financial gymnastics. Contact OC Estate & Elder Law at (954)251-0332 or info@ocestatelawyers.com to get started with a free phone consultation. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian.