What is tangible personal property? It is your furniture, jewelry, china, silver, paintings, cars, clothing and antiques. Basically, it is anything you can touch and feel. Unfortunately, these are the items that we see families having disputes over. Imagine having two daughters, When you die, you have $100. One daughter gets $50 and the other daughter gets $50. No problem. Now what happens when you die and you have one engagement ring? Who should receive the ring? If you do not leave instructions as to who should receive the ring, then we have a possible dispute on our hands.
You need an estate plan so your family has written instructions as to who should receive your assets after your death. When you create a will or a revocable living trust, we will provide you with an estate planning letter. You need to write down the items that you think may cause a possible dispute, and specify who you wish to receive each item. This can be done with paper and pen, or accomplished digitally. Many of my clients take picture of the items and save their lists electronically. This is an important, often overlooked, step of your estate plan.
Another suggestion is to leave general instructions if you do not want to be specific as to the distribution of your personal property. For example, you can direct your executor or successor trustee to organize a meeting of all the beneficiaries entitled to receive the tangible personal property, and have them draw numbers or straws. Each person continues taking turns until no items remain. In the end, if items remain, they can be donated to a charity of your choice. An alternative can be an estate sale.
Your successor trustee will appreciate direction in allocating your tangible personal property because it is often the most difficult, time-consuming part of administering your estate. For this reason, it is important to complete your estate planning letter and keep it with your original documents.
An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create an estate plan, and assist you in keeping it up to date as changes occur in your life, so that your final wishes are honored.
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