Steve and I just finished our wills, along with a couple other legal documents, and some more to come. When you're working on a whole lot of expenses at one time, including those for buying a house, some things just need to happen later than others.
Part of the process was listing individual items and to whom you want them to go once you're gone. You'd think it was easy. Nobody here is rich, no complicated trusts to set up. However, I ran into two issues.
First, it seemed like every time I turned around, there was something else I'd forgotten about, either with sentimental or tangible value. After all, right now a large chunk of my "stuff" is packed away in the basement. I need to rely on an aging memory to recall just what is on all those totes. Since I've been collecting things from my auction job for a couple years now, buying partly with an idea to sell again later once the economy has recovered and the market returns, partly with an eye to display once there's a place in Arizona for just us and our stuff, and my tastes are quite ecclectic, I'm sure I've forgotten a lot of what's there.
Heck, I have forgotten stuff right under my nose and in plain sight. One of the last things added was my carved Dalls sheep horn, picked up in Alaska on the trip with Paul and Jordan. It sits on top of a set of cabinets in my bedroom. They're rare because only some of the natives are allowed to harvest them, and each with a permit may only harvest two sheep a year, meaning 4 horns, and of those only a few are carved. It's something you don't trust to just anybody with a jacknife and a yen to make their mark on the world!
I tried one method of distribution: let each kid, in a specified order, take their first choice from a category, say books, then once that was done, their second, etc., until all items in that category were gone. That way everybody is at least partly satisfied and nobody can say they've been neglected.
Ya can't do it that way. Judges throw out wills written like that. You have to be more specific. AND you can't use terms like "etc." in your will.
So, back to the books. OK, what kinds of books have I got? There are some science fiction/fantasy, though I've thrown a lot of those away (ahem: donated to an interested reader), cleared out when there grew an increasing need for shelf space. There are a lot of mysteries. There are field guides, coffee-table books, children's compilations, classics....
I talked to Paul, since he was the only one home at the time I was going through this category. His fiction interest is sci-fi. Not mystery. He also goes into the field guides regularly. It seems logical therefore to leave those kinds of books to him. With only one grandchild, it seems logical to leave the kid's books to her, since she will most likely be the one to continue the family into the next generations(s). Keep going with that kind of distribution, and eventually you get to the "and everything else" category. No, they won't be getting equal amounts of books, but the courts will accept that as a specific enough set of instructions. It's do-able, in other words.
In jewelry, specific descriptions of individual items, such as "my mother's ring, with _______ stones", are needed. There is no other ring in my possession with that collection of stones. It's unambiguous. There's still an "and everything else" category. Somebody better bring a box. Actually, since that happens in several categories, a bunch of boxes.
Since furniture is involved, somebody better bring a moving truck.
But hey, not my problem. And they can always refuse a bequest. Or trade, or sell it off, if that's their choice. By then I won't care. And that part of the will is always changeable.