If you live in California and are creating an estate plan, it is important to think about more than just your traditional assets. In addition to real estate, your bank account and investments, you might also have family heirlooms. It would be a mistake to assume that you can simply let your heirs decide what happens to these after you are gone. While there may be some families where this approach goes smoothly, this can also be a source of conflict.
One of the challenges when it comes to heirlooms is that unless they are sold and the proceeds distributed among your ears, they are not as easily divided as a retirement account or some other types of assets. Conflict may be even higher over items that are mostly sentimental in value, so you should include those in your planning as well.
Some people find that it is easier to gift these items one by one to loved ones while they are still alive. You can also specify who gets each item in your will. If some people are getting items that are significantly more valuable in monetary terms than others, you can make up the difference in other parts of the estate plan if you are concerned about keeping things equal.
Appointing a distributor
You could appoint someone to distribute these items. This person should be a disinterested third party and not, for example, one of your children deciding what their siblings will receive since this could lead to conflict. Be sure to discuss this role with them as part of your estate planning.
Talk about it
Perhaps the best option is to talk to everyone and find out what objects are valuable to each of them. This is not necessarily an easy conversation, but it may lead to the most satisfying outcomes.