Estate Planning for Personal Property

Most people are driven to plan their estate because they are worried about their major assets – their home, a business, a large life insurance policy. But it is often the personal items – such as jewelry, collectibles and mementos, that have the highest sentimental value.

It is easy to divide money by the number of beneficiaries you’ve named.  It is much harder to split up a one-of-a-kind item.  Even an item with little “market value” can lead to emotionally charged disputes, or even litigation. What is the best way to avoid a lawsuit that could cost more than the item itself?

Have the Conversation

You don’t have to guess who wants what.  You can create a dialogue to find that out, and to identify the “hot” items that everyone wants.  If there is a conflict, work out a compromise during your lifetime so you don’t leave a legacy of fighting after your gone.

Be Specific

The best way to avoid conflict is to make a specific bequest of an item in your will or trust. If personal property is going to someone outside the family, it is even more important that the gift be in writing.

In Michigan, your Will or Trust can be drafted to refer to a separate personal property memorandum.  That list can then be in your own handwriting, and if you date and sign it, it is legally binding.  That can save you attorney fees if you later change your mind.  You would not need to amend your Will or Trust each time you revise the gift of personal property. You could just do a new list. Just be sure the list is stored where the right people will find, and honor, it!

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Legal Strategies, P.C. 

Terri North is the Macomb County, Michigan attorney who heads up the Legal Strategies practice. Legal Strategies assists clients in the areas of estate planning, probate and real estate. 
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