Personal Property in Wills

photo_3672_20090119Drafting a Will is one of the most important things you will do in your life, but the process can be complicated because there are many questions regarding what personal property items can and should be included. A significant task when completing a Will is to decide who will get your personal property upon your passing. Should personal items be included in a Will? The answer is yes, but at what capacity depends on the type of personal items and where they should be included.

Below is a list of the different types of personal items and the way they should be included in a Will:

Intangible personal property: Intangible property is property that is owned by the testator (the person making and signing the Will), it has value, but it cannot be touched and it doesn’t have physical substance. Examples of intangible items are stocks, copyright materials, bonds, ownership interests, and life insurance.

Tangible personal property: Tangible property consists of personal items that belong to the testator, which can be physically touched, weighed, or measured. Examples of tangible items are computers, tools, furniture, machinery, equipment, art, jewelry, and vehicles.

Often times, the list of who will get what can get quite lengthy if every item is listed. In this event, the most efficient way is to create a document, separate from the Will, called a “Personal Property Memorandum”. To make the memorandum legal, the testator needs to refer to the memorandum in the Will. Another benefit of the Will having a personal property memorandum is to have an opportunity to clearly state who should get what, which can have more of a personal touch, rather than leaving all of your belongings to the children in equal shares.

There is no right or wrong way to designate who your belongings should go to. Estate planning attorneys understand each person has a unique situation, family dynamic, amount of personal property, and will walk you through the process to determine the best way to designate your personal property. An attorney will ensure your property is divided the way you intended it to be, and to the people that you wish to receive it. An estate planning attorney will also be able to provide guidance on personal property that is not able to be added to the Will such as life insurance policies and joint owned vehicles (in some states).