One of the questions a lot of our older clients struggle with is what to do with their jewelry and watches. Many of these items are beautiful, costly and hold emotional significance for their owners -- so they want their heirs to inherit the pieces. At the same time, they don't want to start a family feud because somebody didn't get "Mom's pearls" or "Grandma's ring" after they were gone.
Here are some things to consider as you think about how to divide your jewelry box items up among your heirs:
1. Find out which pieces are the most important
You need to talk to your heirs to find out which pieces of your jewelry hold the most sentimental value -- because it may not be the ones you expect. Sure, your engagement ring might have emotional value for all of your kids, but one child may have a cherished memory surrounding an inexpensive piece that surprises you.
2. Consider allowing the kids to draw lots over contested pieces
If there are a few pieces that everybody wants, it might be fairest to have them each valued and have the most expensive pieces doled out by chance. You can specify the method (drawing numbers from a hat, for example) in your will. Or have your heirs each pick a piece, one at a time, until the contested pieces are chosen.
3. Consider breaking up a piece
If your diamond engagement ring, wedding band and anniversary set are an issue, consider having the pieces broken up and the stones divided and reset in new jewelry for your heirs. That way, no one gets "the prize" and everyone gets to wear something that came from you.
4. You may need a mediator
Sometimes, an estate attorney can help you sort out the issue. Other times, you may need a professional mediator to help settle the issue.
Estate planning has a lot of complicated parts -- so the earlier you start, the better. Just remember, communication with your heirs is essential to a smooth process and a united family once you're gone.