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Personal Property Memorandum: 4 Tips for Success

What is a personal property memorandum? It is a frequently-used estate planning document that provides an opportunity to expand upon your will or trust. Many wills or trusts simply divide the whole of an estate equally between surviving family members. But, what if you would prefer a more detailed plan for particular items you want to leave to specific individuals? If you would like to ensure specific property or items in your estate are left to certain relatives or friends, a personal property memorandum is a great option. It is a detailed accounting of items of personal property listed with the corresponding person you would like to receive those items. It is simple but powerful, and we can assist you in making one. The best personal property memorandum will work in concert with your will or trust to give your estate and belongings exactly as you want. Further, it must be referenced in the will or trust to be effective. Here are four tips we need to consider to ensure your memorandum works as desired. 1. Use detail When preparing your memorandum, include specific, detailed descriptions of each piece of property. For example, if describing a car, it is best to add identifying descriptors such as model year, model number, and color. When conveying that you would like someone to receive a piano, rather than simply “piano,” write “my black 1980 Steinway grand piano.” For an even more exact description, you may choose to include a photograph, especially if you own many similar items. 2. Be specific about who will receive the item Because a personal property memorandum is a legal document, you will want to use a full legal name and relationship. Avoid confusion that could arise from listing only a relationship, using a nickname, or other ambiguity. Your list will be clearest if you write “my daughter, Emily Smith,” as opposed to just “Emily.” Readers of the memorandum will know your intent without a doubt if they see “my daughter, Emily Smith, to receive my 1980 black Steinway grand piano.” Remember, when the memorandum becomes effective, you will be deceased so no one will be able to ask you for clarification. 3. Update your property memorandum frequently For this document to be useful, it must be current. If you give away an item, to the eventual recipient or otherwise, sell an item, or if an item is lost, stolen, or destroyed, such as by fire or flood, it is time to amend your memorandum. If you find yourself needing to make significant changes to your memorandum, one helpful approach is to photocopy the original, make notes on the photocopy about changes you would like to make, then use the notes to produce a new, updated memorandum. It is important the updated personal property memorandum be specific about the items you want distributed as well as the individuals who are to receive the items. Once you have concluded this process, you can avoid any confusion by shredding the old memorandum— but of course, before shredding any estate planning document, check with us. 4. Ask for help If your personal property memorandum creates any challenges, such as an item or collection that is difficult to describe, contact us. We are here to help, and we can make sure your estate plan works just as you intend. We hope these tips have been helpful. Your personal property memorandum can be an important document in the execution of your estate plan. But it must be detailed, accurate, up to date and mentioned in your will or trust to be effective. As always, we are here to provide personal, tailored advice as you create this essential document.

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