Personal Property in Estate Planning

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There are many estate considerations that an individual should consider when preparing for their eventual passing. For one, it is important to determine what will happen to assets such as a house, property, or investments. Additionally, an individual may want to make preparations for personal effects, such as heirlooms, collectibles, or other sentimental items. Creating a personal property list or similar document may be useful in ensuring that a person’s wishes are carried out by their heirs or beneficiaries.   

What is a Tangible Personal Property List?

 A tangible personal property list is a legal document that identifies pieces of personal property and designates how they will be divided. This could include a line-by-line approach that lists each item and the intended recipient. For many people, their personal property list is a separate document from their will. This allows a person to make adjustments to the document without creating a new will.

“While many items can be included in a personal property list, some items are prohibited,” said Attorney Kerri Castellini. “Items commonly prohibited under state law include money, real estate, or intangible items. Because of this, it is best to consult an experienced lawyer when creating a personal property list.”

In addition to identifying items and recipients, a personal property list must also reference the existence of a current will and include a signature and date provided by the list creator. Once a plan is created, many estate planning experts recommend communicating the existence of the personal property list and its details to the recipients designated within it. It is also advised that a person periodically review and update their personal property list to accurately reflect any desired changes.

Designating a Distribution Process

There are several ways a person can designate ownership of items in their personal property list. One common method is to explicitly designate a specific recipient to gain ownership of an object. Alternatively, an individual could create an organized system that allows a set group of people to divide items amongst themselves. One example of this is a bidding process or lottery-style system to gain ownership of certain items. Many estate planning lawyers experts recommend that a personal property list creator examine the specifics of their circumstances to determine the best method for distributing items in the event of their passing.

What Happens if Recipients Cannot Agree?

Having an updated, robust, and accurate will could avoid complications during the asset distribution process. However, there are several options available to parties who are facing a dispute related to the distribution of items. For instance, a mediator or arbiter could help settle disputes between family members. In many cases, an estate attorney or similar legal representative may be able to act as a mediator when dividing assets. Alternatively, the parties in disagreement may attempt to reach a resolution on their own. These measures could also be appropriate for cases involving unclear or outdated instructions.

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