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Houston estate planning involves categorizing prized possessions

People can become attached to their possessions and collections that have been amassed over the years, often making it difficult to let go of them. For Houston residents, strong estate planning involves taking those collections and making sure that they are well taken care of, whether that means selling them or placing them in trusts.

There have been several instances of people who have left their prized possessions to heirs, only for them later to be sold outright with little realization of their actual monetary value. Estate planning may facilitate in getting those valuable possessions appraised and perhaps having a frank discussion with children about what the items may mean, emotionally and financially.

A fear by some planning their estates is that their heirs will not be as emotionally attached to an item as they are. An open discussion with heirs may help, and compiling the items into a "good, better and best" collection will allow heirs to know which items are dispensable, which items should only be sold under financial duress and which items should never be sold. This can avoid hurt feelings and misunderstandings in the future.

Ensuring that your items are passed down through family members is also a good way to keep collections intact, although it can sometimes be costly. The IRS mandates that the estate tax be paid within nine months after a death. By choosing to implement the annual gift tax exclusion of $13,000 per person, one can give important pieces of a collection to heirs and avoid any potential tax implications. For the most important items in a collection, trusts may be an option to protect those items from potential creditors.

Money may be easy to leave behind. But when it comes to a lifetime worth of items collected that have brought someone great joy, the decision about how to divide them can sometimes be agonizing. Proper estate planning in Houston can ensure that one's wishes are followed.

Source: The New York Times, "Making Plans for Prized Collections, Heartstrings Included," Paul Sullivan, Feb. 24, 2012

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