When clients come into our office to design their estate plans one of their biggest concerns is how to dispose of their tangible personal property. Sometimes clients spend more time determining how to dispose of these personal mementos than they do the big ticket items such as bank accounts, real property, and investments. This is completely understandable when you consider that it is these personal items that carry our history and our memories, and in many ways make up the fabric of our lives.

One of the questions we are often asked is if these personal items should be included in the will or trust or if there is an easier way to dispose of them. The answer is that although major items such as the crown jewels should be listed in your will or trust, smaller mementos such as a baseball card collection or grandma’s china (things that are not required to go through probate) can be listed on a much less intimidating document called a personal property memorandum.

A personal property memorandum is a written statement which lists your various tangible personal items along with the people who should receive these items upon your death. (Tangible personal items do NOT include bank accounts, stocks, money, securities, or trade or business properties.) The nice thing about the personal property memorandum is that you can edit and update it yourself, whereas any changes to a will or a trust should be made by a qualified attorney. You must, however, be sure that your will or trust refers to your personal property memorandum if you have one, to ensure that there is no confusion about distribution of property.

A personal property memorandum can be typed up, handwritten, or can be a standard template that you get from your attorney to fill out at home—so long as it clearly expresses your wishes and is signed and dated. It is best to store your personal property memorandum in a safe place with the rest of your estate planning documents; but if you find yourself making frequent changes to the document it can be kept at home, so long as your trustees or executor know where to find it if something happens to you.

For more information about how to leave personal property to your heirs please contact our office.