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Estate planning: how to handle hard assets

Planning for one's own passing can be an uncomfortable process. However, this is at the heart of estate planning. The process involves figuring out how to distribute an estate's assets and debts upon an individual's death. On its face, this may seem relatively easy. However, the process can actually be quite complicated. One reason for this difficulty is that many assets are not liquid like cash, bonds and stocks. This means that these assets may be more challenging to equally divide amongst an individual's heirs.This is particularly true when it comes to dealing with what are often referred to as "hard assets." These assets are individual pieces of property that cannot be easily divided. Common examples include family heirlooms such as jewelry and other personal items. Oftentimes, many heirs vie for these valuable pieces of property. So, the difficulty then becomes how to pass them down.The first step in passing down a hard asset is to get it appraised. An appraisal can give the owner an accurate value of the item so that that value can be taken into consideration when devising an estate plan. The appraisal should be conducted by somebody who is knowledgeable and experienced.

Then, once an item's value is known, an individual can better determine how best to distribute it amongst his or her loved ones. It may be wise to leave the item to multiple individuals, giving them the opportunity to buy each other out. Or, it may be best to simply sell the item and divide the proceeds amongst everyone. Another option an individual may want to consider is leaving the item to one particular person, then take that into account when dividing up the other assets.As you can see, there are a number of ways that hard assets can be handled during the estate planning process. The discussion above does not even take into account situations where assets are not divided equally amongst heirs. Therefore, to develop an estate plan that works best for you and deals with all of your assets and debts, please consider working closely with an attorney of your choosing.

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