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How to approach hard assets in estate planning

It doesn’t take a scientist or skilled financial planner to realize that estate planning can be tricky. After all, individuals are forced to think about their own mortality and make financial decisions that can have a major impact on the lives of others. In many instances, those who engage in estate planning simply want to split their assets amongst their identified heirs, which usually include children. While this may be easy to do with liquid assets like cash and stocks and bonds, it can be a much messier process when dealing with hard assets like heirlooms and art.

These hard assets carry significant sentimental value, which is why they are often sought out by numerous family members. But can a hard asset be divided amongst those family members? It physically can’t. This is why the first step in addressing this issue is to get an accurate valuation of the asset. Many of these items appreciate or depreciate over time, so having a recent appraisal can be crucial. Once an item is appraised, then it’s time to identify those potential heirs who want to own that property.

This is where problems can arise, especially if multiple people want the asset. One way to handle this issue is to simply figure out how to divide other assets in a way that makes giving the hard asset to one person fair. Of course, the sentimental value of that hard asset is what makes this task difficult for many to swallow.

Once an individual has decided to whom the asset will be passed, he or she will have to determine how to pass that asset down. The asset may be passed by a common will, or it might be best placed in a trust. An individual may even choose to sell the asset and divvy up the cash accordingly. The point is that there are many ways to handle complicated estate planning issues like this. An attorney who is skilled in this area of the law may be able to help individuals develop a plan that they feel comfortable with and will satisfy their desires with regard to how hard assets are passed on to their loved ones.