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Ways to Avoid Disputes Over Family Heirlooms

Family heirlooms can create problems among family members after a loved one has passed away. Even if the deceased had a will or trust in place, these documents may not address specific items, leaving family members the task of dividing up heirlooms fairly. This post explores ways to avoid disputes over family heirlooms.


If you have specific family members in mind whom you would like to inherit specific items, you can say so in your will. Name the inheritor and be as specific as possible in your description of the item. If you would rather not go through the trouble of updating your will, you can draft and sign a memo detailing who should receive which items. This memo can be attached as an addendum to your will.


Another approach is to assign all heirlooms to a trustworthy, equitable, and fair-minded person (possibly your Personal Representative) along with a non-binding letter giving detailed instructions on who inherits which heirlooms.


If any heirlooms have obvious market value, you might consider having them appraised professionally. This might help you determine how to equitably divide the items. If you foresee family members not wanting specific heirlooms, a professional appraisal could also be useful to substantiate tax deductions if family members choose to donate the items.


If you’re still unsure how best to manage the distribution of family heirlooms, consult your estate planning attorney who can explore options with you and provide guidance.


For a free, confidential conversation to discuss estate planning, including how to navigate the distribution of family heirlooms, contact Maryland estate attorney Stephen J. Reichert at 410-299-4959 or


Stephen looks forward to assisting you with your Maryland estate planning needs.


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