In making a Will or Trust Plan, you’ve probably given some thought to your larger assets, such as your home or vehicle. However, as with many aspects of estate planning, the little details can make a big difference.
Smaller assets, such as sentimental items or family heirlooms that hold emotional importance to you, should also be considered as you’re drafting your Will or Trust Plan. To protect these assets or provide for their transfer to specific family and friends, you’ll want to use a Personal Property Memorandum.
What is a Personal Property Memorandum?
A Personal Property Memorandum is a flexible and easy to use document that permits you to freely put together a List of your smaller, tangible items – including clothing, jewelry or pieces of art – to be given to your intended beneficiary. It is a separate document from your Will or Trust, and it is one that you will be able to prepare on your own and amend as many times as you wish – without need of witnesses or a notary public. As long as your Will or Trust state that you may leave such a List or Memorandum, and cite to the Virginia Code authorizing you to do so, then whatever List or Memorandum you leave with your Will or Trust is recognized as legally binding in Virginia.
Of course, you can also include a list of items inside your Will or Trust document; however, if you cease to own such an item or acquire new items of property, then you will find putting this into the actual Will or Trust will also mean having to incur attorney’s fees to amend and re-sign a Will, Codicil, Trust, or Trust Amendment – and, with the burden of needing witnesses and a notary. This can be a drawn out and more costly process, especially if you have multiple smaller gifts to distribute or you acquire more personal property after writing your Will.
A Personal Property Memorandum is much easier to change. It does not have to be witnessed in order to be legally binding, and can also be updated at any time without ever needing to amend or re-sign your Will or Trust, or an amendment to those documents.
Having a Personal Property Memorandum can also avoid conflict between family members. Rather than dividing everything equally amongst loved ones and forcing them to figure it out amongst themselves, giving specific directives as to who receives which item can eliminate any hard feelings or tension during the probate process.
What can I include in my Personal Property Memorandum?
Your personal property memorandum can include any tangible assets. These include furniture, household items such as silverware, artwork, jewelry, and any collections you might have. In certain states and circumstances, you can also include vehicles in the memorandum.
Real estate and intangible assets cannot be included in your personal property memorandum; these would instead need to be noted in your Will. Examples of intangible property include money and bank accounts, IOUs, stocks/bonds and copyrights.
Using a Personal Property Memorandum with your Will
To make your Personal Property Memorandum legally binding, you must also have a valid will in which you explicitly refer to the document. This can be as simple as a statement indicating that in addition to your will, you have included a personal property memorandum that indicates how your tangible assets should be distributed after your death.
The Personal Property Memorandum itself can be typed and printed, or it can be handwritten, so long as it contains your hand-written signature and a date on it. The document typically begins with the following statement (or similar): “I bequeath the following items of tangible personal property to the beneficiaries listed below.”
Then, list the assets along with the names of those who are to inherit them. Once you are finished writing, sign and date the memorandum. Keep the document with your Will, in a location where your executor can easily find it.
As you are writing your Memorandum, you should keep the following considerations in mind:
- If you’ve specifically left an item in your Will, you should not also include it in your memorandum. At best, it is redundant; at worst, the two documents will contradict each other.
- You should describe items as clearly as possible, especially if there is a chance they will be confused with similar items.
- If your executor won’t know who a beneficiary is or how to get in touch with them, you should include contact information (such as an address or phone number) and their relationship to you.
If you’re looking for assistance with your Personal Property Memorandum for a Will or a Trust, or need help with another estate planning matter, you can schedule a free consultation with the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. today.