Updated: Nov 30, 2020
One of the main items a Last Will and Testament can help you accomplish is naming who will inherit your property and assets. Often times, couples will leave everything to each other with their children as alternate beneficiaries. Other times, families will divide everything among their adult children.
However, what if you have an item that you want to go to a specific person? For example, maybe you want to give a painting to your niece that she has always admired. Or perhaps you want your friend to receive your good set of china.
You can put these specific gifts in your Will, but this is not the best solution. If you have many gifts to make, your Will will be very long. Also, if you want to add or change who receives what item, you will have to update your Will every time. If you decide to leave all your possessions to your children in equal shares, they will have to divide your personal items among themselves. This can be difficult if your children have different memories or opinions of who should inherit each item.
The best solution to these problems may be the Memorandum of Personal Property. This is a separate document that you keep with your Will. You simply list the items and the person you want to inherit each item. You sign and date the document on your own, without any need for witnesses. The memorandum is legally binding as long as you refer to it in your Will. Because the memorandum clearly states who will receive each item, it can eliminate arguments and differing opinions in the division process.
The memorandum of personal property can only include your tangible personal property. This includes things like your furniture, household items, art, jewelry, and collections. It does not include intangible property like stock, bonds, or copyrights.
You cannot use a memorandum of personal property for real estate. Make sure you clearly describe the item so that it is not confused with a similar item. Also, it may be a good idea to include contact information with the beneficiary’s name if you think your executor may have a hard time finding him/her. Don’t include items that you have already specifically referenced in your Will because you don’t want the documents to contradict.
The memorandum will have no effect unless you leave a valid Will that refers to it. The Wills we prepare for you at our office contain a section referring the memorandum of personal property. This way you can create a memorandum whenever you choose to, or you don’t have to.
When you fill it out, make sure to sign and date it. If you create multiple memoranda, the most recently dated one will be used. Keep the memorandum with your Will so your Personal Representative can find it easily. If you change your mind about what’s in your memorandum, you can easily change it. Simply create a new memorandum and throw the old one away. Do not make changes on the memorandum; create a new one instead.
Changing your memorandum will not affect your Will and does not require an attorney consultation. We have a free memorandum form available on our website if you would like to add one to your estate planning. If you need a new Will that refers to the memorandum, contact our office.