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The times they are a-changin' for heirs and heirlooms

As Bob Dylan so expressively sang in his hit song "The Times They Are a-Changin," society and the way people live changes from generation to generation. While his lyrics embodied a time of great social change, the message applies to estate planning as well. An estate plan created 10, 30 or 50 years ago may not fit a family's needs today.

Take for example the different lifestyles of generations. One may not think that this plays much of a role in choosing how to structure an estate plan, but it does. Those who lived through the Great Depression in general place a higher value on a belonging than a millennial child. Living at a time when buying anything was a family discussion, heirlooms meant a lot more. Now, the new decorating style is minimal and the picture of the adventure inside may hold high sentimental value while the frame is disposable.

So how does this relate to estate planning you might ask? Older generations tend to transfer heirlooms, such as a collection of dolls. One daughter said that she inherited her mother's doll collection, but the 150 antique dolls were something she didn't have the "room or the inclination" to keep. She said that with her kids, she had enough "stuff" in her home already. What she really needed was a vacation or help with the kids' college funds.

We share this not to say that heirlooms passed down from generation to generation are a bad idea, but instead to highlight the importance of updating estate plans and sharing intentions with those you love. An honest conversation can be one of the most beneficial tools. For most parents, the reward is in helping their children succeed and simply bringing joy to their life.

Source: Star Tribune, "No longer saved for generations, family heirlooms are being shed," Kim Palmer, April 22, 2013

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