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Why do inheritance disputes involve assets with little value?

On Behalf of | Nov 6, 2017 | Blog |

You know why high-value inheritance disputes happen: Everyone wants their cut. The house is worth $750,000, for instance, so every sibling wants a piece. Or the bank account has $500,000, and every relative is thinking of how to spend his or her portion. Things can get very complicated when an estate is over $1 million, especially if the heirs don’t have nearly that much to their name.

However, you and your heirs are in a dispute, and you can’t figure out where you’ve gone wrong. The items in question aren’t even worth much. Why does everyone feel so passionately about them?

It’s because some things go beyond money

For instance, one man told a story about his wife splitting up her parents’ assets. At the heart of the dispute was an Encyclopedia Britannica set. It was old, it was beautiful, and his wife wanted it. She didn’t want to read it. The set was outdated. But she still wanted it.

She didn’t get it. The set went to her brother, who put it on a shelf and never touched it. The man said it took years for them to get past it and set aside their differences.

There’s no value there, or at least not much. The Encyclopedia Britannica is very common. She certainly could have bought her own. Plus, she also did not want to read it. She would have put it on a shelf just like her brother did.

But it was more than money. She felt emotionally connected. She associated that set with her parents — with their house and their lives. Sentimentally, she wanted it because it would tie her to those memories.

Often, people see these things as more important than financial assets. If you’re doing well for yourself, you can probably buy anything you want. You don’t need your dad’s car or your mom’s art collection. You have your own stuff. You have your own retirement fund.

You can’t buy items that have that emotional connection

Sure, the man’s wife could have gone on the Internet and used her phone to buy her own Encyclopedia Britannica set in about 10 seconds. It has never been easier. But it wouldn’t have been the same. She didn’t want any set. She wanted that set, the one her parents owned.

In the entire world, there’s only one set that fits that description. Forget the technical value of the books. They’re truly unique, and nothing can put a value on that.

Certainly, many estate disputes do involve money. However, it’s important to remember that these cases are often far more complex than financial gain. From a legal standpoint, this makes it all very complicated and it’s important for people to know their rights while considering a will or an estate plan. Every case is different and deserves more than a cookie-cutter approach.

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