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A few weeks ago we looked at some of the benefits of creating a Personal Property Disposition List, which is a list of personal items of your estate and whom you want to receive them. This list – separate from your will – can save you the time and expense of updating your will every time you want to make a change, make work easier for your executor, and ensure your friends and family receive the personal items you want them to have.  Here are seven tips on drafting your own:

  1. Name the beneficiary clearly.  Virginia Code requires the beneficiary be described with “reasonable certainty.”  Leaving an item “to my sister” is probably fine if you only have one sister, but why take the chance?  Include full names and relationships to make the gift clear.
  2. Be Specific.  General or residuary gifts aren’t specific enough to qualify under Virginia rules.  Gifts of “my furniture” or “my jewelry” should be spelled out in greater detail and listed individually, for example.  Include photographs for added clarity or serial numbers, where available.  When describing items, favor a physical description over an historical description to make your Executor’s job easier: “the sofa I bought when I was 34” isn’t as helpful as “my brown, leather sectional sofa.”
  3. Remember your pets.  Pets are actually considered personal property, so detailing beneficiaries of pets can avoid family turmoil when the time comes to find them a new owner.
  4. Handwrite the gifts.  This is not a legal requirement but can be a good idea nonetheless because seeing a gift made in a family member’s familiar handwriting can give the gift some additional moral weight.  Family members inclined to argue over whether the deceased intended to make the gift may be more inclined to believe it if it’s written in the decedent’s own handwriting.  It goes without saying the handwriting should be neat and legible!
  5. Keep Gifts Equal.  Suppose you have two children and your will divides all of your remaining assets between them at your death (as is common in many wills).  Suppose also that you make a gift of a $30,000 car to your daughter under your Personal Property Disposition List.  Your will won’t take this gift into account when splitting the rest of your property evenly.  So unless you make a similar gift to your son, your daughter will receive a larger portion of your estate.  If providing for your children equally is a priority, be sure to leave similarly sized gifts to each child through your Personal Property Disposition List.
  6. Sign.  Don’t forget to sign your Personal Property Disposition List.  A signature is a legal requirement, so be sure to include it.
  7. Review and update from time to time.  Remember that because these gifts are specific, they will fail if they’re no longer included in your estate at the time of your death.  If you’ve sold your car to buy a new one, revise your list to include details of the new one.

Remember too that a Personal Property Disposition List must be referenced in your will.  It doesn’t have the same execution requirements so will not stand on its own.  For questions about creating a will or drafting a Personal Property Disposition List call Asurest today to start the conversation.

Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.