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Don't forget your 'hard' assets in your estate plan

When doing their estate planning, people often focus on how their bank, investment and retirement accounts, as well as other liquid assets, will be split up among their heirs. They likely think of what will happen to their home as well.

However, sometimes they give little thought to illiquid or "hard" assets like jewelry and artwork. These may have both considerable monetary and sentimental value. Among the things that comedian/actor Robin Williams' widow and her stepchildren fought over after his death were his watch and bicycle collections.

If you have assets like jewelry, art and antiques, it's a good idea to have an accredited appraiser determine their value. Whether you're planning to bequeath them to family or have them sold, you should know what they're worth. You may need to have them reappraised if you add or remove items from the collection or simply as time passes, since the value may change.

You also need to talk to your family about these items as well as others that some or all of them may have strong feelings about. Even if items have no significant monetary value, they may have considerable sentimental value to one or more of your children, grandchildren or other family members. These discussions can be difficult, but it's better to have them while you're alive than to have the family fighting over these things, possibly in court, after you're gone.

There are a number of ways to pass on illiquid assets. Usually, it's easiest to leave them outright to the beneficiary. Some people give things away while they're still alive. You may choose to place them in a trust. If no one is interested in an item or collection, you may opt to sell it, or have it sold after your death and leave the money to your loved ones.

Your Arizona family law attorney can advise you of the potential tax implications for your loved ones of receiving these assets as gifts while you're alive or inheritances after you're gone. This can help you work to minimize the amount of taxes that they and/or your estate will have to pay.

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