Do I Need to List Every Item I’m Leaving to Someone in My Will?

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020, 9:01 am

If you have a lot of assets or a number of sentimental things you want to make sure are given to the right people upon your death, you may be tempted to sit down and write out a very long will that includes all of these items. This is certainly one option, but it does have a few drawbacks. Depending on where you live, there may be an alternative option that makes it much easier to leave small items to your heirs and change that list at any time.

Why Shouldn’t You Specify Small Items in Your Will?

If a will is designed to outline how you want your assets divided upon your death, why shouldn’t you leave a detailed accounting of all of your property in it? The issue is that if you were to decide you wanted to change who received one item or wanted to add some other small gifts to the list, you would have to amend your will. That means going through the entire process of creating a valid will again. It’s a lot of work for something such as a single necklace or a piece of art that may have sentimental value but little tangible value.

Another Option – the Personal Property Memorandum

Instead of listing all of these small gifts in your will, another option is to create a personal property memorandum. This is a separate document from your will that allows you to list out any tangible item and who you wish it to go to. After you create the list, sign it. That’s all you have to do to create a personal property memorandum – there’s no need to have it signed by witnesses, have it notarized, or use a specific form.

Note that these memorandums can only be used for tangible items. You cannot use one to leave someone money, accounts, stocks, bonds, or copyrights. Most states also prevent you from using a memorandum to leave business properties or assets to others.

New York Law and Personal Property Memorandums

Note that in New York, a personal property memorandum is not legally binding. However, you should still create one because the executor of your estate will be able to use it to divide your assets. The executor, who should be someone you fully trust, does have the court-backed authority to disperse your estate, and if you’ve left them a list of instructions, they will be able to do so as you’ve indicated.

If you would like to know more about creating a will, a personal property memorandum, or about how inheritance works in New York, contact Michael F. Kanzer & Associates today.

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Category: Uncategorized, Wills

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