Family heirlooms no longer passing to the future generations
In April, an anonymous buyer purchased a pink diamond at a Christie’s auction in New York for a record-breaking $40 million over the protests of numerous individuals claiming ownership rights to the rock. The seller was also anonymous and, according to Christie’s, is not related to any of the heirs of the last known owner, a prominent Italian politician and newspaper owner, who purchased it in the 1940s. The former owner married at least two times and, according to the laws in Italy, the diamond was supposed to go to the children he had with his first wife. However, it disappeared for a number of years. Now, heirs keep popping up claiming rights to the proceeds of the diamond and it was discovered that one of the man’s marriages may not have been valid. It may take years to settle this dispute, a mess that, in the U.S., may have been avoided with proper estate planning.
Heirlooms and heirs
The largest transfer of wealth in U.S. history – over $8 trillion – is slowly taking place through inheritances as parents of baby boomers pass on. Although few people have a $40 million diamond to pass along to their heirs, many have a lifetime of belongings that may include family heirlooms they acquired as relatives died. Many New Jersey residents – especially those from the Depression-era -collected items they hope their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will treasure.
Unfortunately, those in the Millennial Generation and Generation X may not attach the same value to family heirlooms that their parents or grandparents did. The highly mobile lifestyles of these younger generations are not conducive to keeping fine china, nor do large pieces of antique furniture fit easily into their condominiums and apartments.
However, big-ticket items – such as property and pink diamonds – can cause legal issues if not properly addressed before an estate is finalized after a family member’s death. Litigation between family members is not uncommon and, even among brothers and sisters, disputes may arise regarding the specifics of a parent’s will or trust.
A lawyer can help
It is important for people of all ages and levels of wealth to preserve and protect the assets they wish to pass to their heirs. Establishing an estate plan with the help of an experienced attorney will help ensure that your wishes are carried out after you are gone. A lawyer knowledgeable about probate and estate planning litigation can also help you avoid potential pitfalls.