When it comes to writing a Will or a Trust, most of us think we know what to include.
Real estate? Check. Investments? Check. Expensive jewelry? Check.
All those are important to get down on paper, but what about the countless knickknacks, heirlooms, and personal possessions you’ve accumulated over your lifetime?
While seemingly innocuous, these can be a source of unnecessary tension and conflict after your passing.
The truth is that while real estate and any of the other big ticket items can seem more important, to your family the monetary value of what you leave behind isn’t always as important as the emotional value of what used to be yours.
Disagreements over what should be whose can quickly turn vicious; tempers flare and emotions run high even among the most seemingly well acclimated family. The death of a loved one is a difficult time and can bring to the surface long buried insecurities and resentments.
Unfortunately, bequeathing every item you own to a specific recipient is too time consuming and arduous a process to be practical.
A variety of alternatives have been used throughout the years to determine ownership. For example, some in their Will or Trust have had their family members bid over items in contention, or have them take turns picking a single item at a time. While these methods are obviously creative, they are all also in their own ways prone to cause unnecessary conflict.
What is a Personal Property Memo?
The simplest fix? A personal property memorandum.
This is a list that can be attached to the end of a Will or a Trust and changed or updated at any time with a minimum of hassle. In the list, try to anticipate which items you own will have the most sentimental value to your family, or which are likely to be a source of conflict.
List the items, and who the recipients should be. You can also state that any items not listed or picked out by your heirs be donated to charities or sold at auction.
Always Be Prepared
The most important aspect of any effective Will or Trust is to minimize the logistical and legal factors that your family may face, so they can have the space and time to grieve without unneeded stress.
A personal property memo is a simple and reliable way to steer your family clear of more heartache than is absolutely necessary, and lay out clearly and precisely your wishes.