As estate planning attorneys, we encourage our clients to create specific instructions for the distribution of tangible items to individual family members or other heirs. There are several reasons why having a plan for disposing of tangible personal property is highly important:
- Tangible items often have sentimental value far in excess of actual value.
- The sheer number of tangible items makes it time-consuming for the executor to settle the estate.
- When tangible items are held inside containers (boxes, desk drawers, safes) a gift of the entire contents of a container can be confusing when cash or stock certificates – which are governed by different probate rules - are held there.
- Computers are part of tangible personal property, but the digital assets (the data contained on that computer’s drives) must be dealt with separately.
“Privacy” is an important word in this announcement, because an estate sale, by definition, is very public. While having a professional company handle all the details of selling items in an estate relieves mourning family members from all the minutiae, family privacy is certainly sacrificed in the process.
It’s important to understand, too, the difference between tangible and intangible property. Property itself includes anything capable of ownership, the author of Wills, Estates & Trusts explains, and all property is divided into two basic categories: real and personal. But person property is not all alike:
Tangible personal property includes things that can be moved and touched, while intangible personal property includes things that in themselves have no value, but which represent the right to something else. Examples of intangible personal property include:
- a copyright
- a royalty interest
- a promissory note
- Everything takes place in one central location, with no moving charges
- Each item can be individually priced
- Advertising includes only this estate (rather than being listed as only one part of an auctioneer’s catalog
1. lack of privacy (there will be strangers in the decedent’s house)
2. potential liabilities (for harm done to the goods or accidents happening to visitors - the estate sales company should carry special insurance for this very purpose).
Estate sales obviously have pros and cons, but can offer a way to simplify the handling of assets at a very challenging time for a family.
- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team