Understanding the Value of the Personal Property Memorandum
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
July 2, 2020
When you’re in the middle of estate planning, there are many documents that may seem confusing. One such item is the “personal property memorandum.” These useful documents are often listed with wills and trusts as important legal elements for documenting your wishes.
Understanding how personal property memorandums differ from wills and trusts can help define your legal strategy. Even more importantly, it will help you understand what property should be included in which documents.
What Is a Personal Property Memorandum?
A personal property memorandum is a separate document from your will. If you have one of these memorandums, your will should reference it — that’s all it takes to make it a legal document. In a personal property memorandum, you list and describe any and all tangible personal property that you want to leave to a specific person.
You can write a personal property memorandum at any time, before or after you write your will. Again: as long as your will references the memorandum, it is a legally binding document. Just make sure the memorandum is easily found so it can be followed by the personal representative of your estate.
Why Make a Personal Property Memorandum?
There are a lot of items to manage when you’re deciding who should inherit what. Financial and real estate property makes up the bulk of the monetary value of most estates. However, the small items like furniture, china, and even knick-knacks and houseplants can hold a lot of sentimental value to both you and your family.
If you want to specifically give certain items to someone, you can list the items in either your will or a personal property memorandum. The big difference is how easy it is to change your mind on the subject later depending on which document you use.
Any time you make a change to your will, you need to get it completely redone and legally witnessed. However, you can update your personal property memorandum whenever you want — without needing a witness.
Who Should Make a Personal Property Memorandum?
The simplicity of updating a personal property memorandum makes it perfect for people who expect to see changes in their lives. In a decade, you may no longer have that rocking chair or painting. You may have more grandchildren to whom you’d like to leave specific items. Rather than go through the whole process of updating your will, you can simply add to your personal property memorandum any time something comes up.
It can also help you head off problems with your estate. For example, if in your will you only state that each inheritor gets a percentage of the value of the estate, they are left to decide who should get what. That can lead to animosity and arguments. A personal property memorandum can help you outline the specific inheritance of items that may be contested. This is a kindness to your heirs, and will help keep the execution of your estate simple.
Bottom line? There are so many things to think about when planning your estate that it’s easy to let things fall through the cracks. Using a personal property memorandum can help prevent that from happening. If you have questions about including a personal property memorandum in your estate planning, get in touch with an experienced attorney who can help explain the process in more detail.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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