Estate Plan Details May Not Specify What to Do With Books – Think Twice Before Discarding Them

Estate Plan Details

We often see books slipping through the cracks of estate plans. The majority of books have little or no market value, so it’s no surprise that they are often discarded or given to charity. However, some old book collections could be housing a hidden treasure due to a book’s rarity or what the owner has hidden within the pages.

Books Left in Residuary

The residuary estate refers to the remaining assets and property of a decedent’s estate after the estate pays for all debts, taxes, and other expenses and all specific gifts have been distributed to beneficiaries as outlined in the person’s will. In most cases, there is likely to be some overlooked property that went unaccounted for during estate planning. Most wills and trusts contain language that specifies what to do with the residuary estate items. For example, the decedent may have stated that they would like all personal belongings to be divided equally among their children, including a bookshelf filled with books. In this situation, the children must decide what to do with leftover books they do not want to keep.

Deciding what to do with a loved one’s things is an emotionally challenging process. While some books may be kept for sentimental value, keeping all of a loved one’s items is usually unrealistic. An estate sale company can help assess the things that can be sold. They also have knowledge regarding pricing items, including books. While it may seem like most of the books your loved one left behind are not worth much, there might be a collectible among the bunch. For example, if a book is a first edition, has signatures or inscriptions by the author, or stands out as a true collectible, it could be worth much more than the few dollars you’re considering selling it for in a yard sale. To gauge the value of a book, you can visit websites such as

Hidden Surprises in Books

Even if you have determined a book does not hold monetary value, skim through the pages before discarding it. You never know what you’ll discover. For instance, one couple found a year-old lottery ticket worth $750K in a book! Even if your loved one didn’t store anything financially valuable between the pages, something special could be hidden. A handwritten note, an old photograph, or tickets to an event could have been used as book marks. Tokens that bring sentimental value could be found and added as a treasured addition to the family scrapbook. 

Attention to Detail

Most people focus on big-ticket items when estate planning. However, touching on personal mementos, such as books, is also important. A personal property memorandum can be used to supplement a person’s will and provide instructions for the distribution of personal belongings and specific items of personal property. Moreover, personal items can also be given away while a person is alive, leaving no doubt about ownership. Attention to small estate planning details can have a significant impact. The greater the level of specificity in an estate plan, the more advantageous it becomes. Ensure that you are not leaving out anything important in your estate plan by contacting Law Stein Anderson.