Saturday, December 21, 2013

Using A Personal Property Memorandum in Estate Planning

A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled "How to Avoid Estate Fights Among Your Heirs" (Andrea Coombes, Dec. 15, 2013), highlighted one useful estate planning tool, the personal property memorandum:
[G]iven that family heirlooms can spark fiery conflicts, create a memorandum that details how you want to divvy up your personal property. ....

The memorandum describes who shall receive specific items. The will then references the memorandum; for example, "I direct my executor to distribute my tangible personal property in accordance with a signed and dated memorandum to be found with this will." Relatives may be unhappy with your decisions, but they're less likely to be angry at each other.

Make sure your executor knows where to find the memorandum, and be specific about items. In one example, a woman said her diamond ring should go to a daughter, but she didn't clarify which diamond ring, says Ms. Olsavsky. Attaching photos of the item and referencing each photo in your memorandum can help.

Another way to prevent arguments after you're gone: Give items away before you die.