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California estate asset values are in the eye of the beholder

A Los Angeles forensic accountant can be hired to place a fair market price on the estate assets you have, but only you and your loved ones know the worth of sentimental objects. Some of the worst squabbles in probate occur over property that has little or no value outside of a family.

An insurance survey conducted last year discovered what baby boomers, now inheriting their World War II-era parents' wealth, and older Americans thought about inheritances. Even more than money, the majority of boomers and people ages 72 and older said that they wanted to give or receive the stories, histories and heirlooms of their family members.

Family treasures aren't necessarily expensive, but they have enough personal value to cause heirs to do battle in court. Parents can help avoid an estate administration nightmare by making preparations for the distribution of assets unique to an estate.

Estate planning attorneys suggest creating a discussion in a family group and with individual heirs about these important possessions. Children and others who know in advance what to expect when you die may not be thrilled with your choices, but they will be less tempted to fight if they aren't shocked after your death.

Wills address your "big-ticket" assets. A memorandum can be added that directs keepsakes to individuals. To avoid any confusion, be as specific as possible in the description of the items in the memorandum and include photos of the property, when possible.

To a parent, a 4-year-old's crayoned holiday picture can be more emotion-stirring than a masterpiece. The one-of-a-kind art adds a thread to the fabric that is a family's story. As precious as Mona Lisa is, her painting couldn't do all that. That's why it is important to talk to an estate planning attorney about options for distributing heirlooms valuable to your family, regardless of their monetary value.

Source: Market Watch, "Your heirs want this even more than your money" Andrea Coombes, Dec. 16, 2013

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