As a litigator, I deal with fights over who gets what from the decedent's estate. But what about possessions nobody really wants, but feel tortured about declining? There is a nice NY Times article on the topic by Joyce Wadler entitled The Tyranny of the Heirloom.
Legatees recognize the sentimental value of certain personal possessions. But recognizing the sentimental value doesn't solve the issue of what to do with large items such as paintings or furniture. What fit into a parent's decor might stick out like a sore thumb in another setting. But simply selling or giving away certain possessions is too traumatic for many as explained by one gentlemen entrusted with a "hideous Victorian settee":
Mr. Nye had a car painter spray it white and then reupholstered it in white and yellow checks, which made it look fresh for a time. When he changed his décor, he tried for chic by ebonizing it and putting taupe linen fabric on it. “It just looked like an old Victorian settee painted black with linen on it.” It has now been exiled to his office.
“It will never live in my house,” Mr. Nye says. “But I can’t get rid of it. I’d be guilt ridden, I’d have to increase my Zoloft.”
He has five siblings; why not give it to one of them?
Mr. Nye, a glib talker, now stumbles.
“I could, um, I just feel emotionally, um, it’s taken me years of therapy to get over my relationship with my mother, it was something my mother just adored, so by giving it away, I would be breaching that healed relationship.”
Unfortunately, there is only so much a probate litigator can do to help a client with the understandable, yet emotionally difficult to resolve, issues surrounding heirlooms.