A Will Should Not Include a Personal Property Clause

HNWElder Law, Estate Planning

Last Will

  • Personal property items should be discussed in your Last Will.
  • Do not itemize personal property in your Will, but rather create a list of personal property in a separate writing.
  • This article explains how a person should address items of personal property in their estate planning.

I recently met with a delightful new client in her 70’s.  She had me laughing the entire consultation.  What a pistol!  Her main assets included brokerage accounts which are to be split between her two children when she passes away.  She wanted to know how to deal with personal items.  Her jewelry has some cash value, her late husband’s fishing rods do not, but she thinks her son will want them.  She wanted to know if she should include these bequests in her Will.

First off, I think it is a good idea to ask her children, what, if anything, they want.  If they can visit personally to see the items, so much the better.  Then decide who gets what, but do NOT include these items in your Will!  Doing so will require that you create a Codicil to your Will any time you lose or sell a listed item, and that will be a waste of time and money.  Instead, create a “Tangible Personal Property List” clause in your Last Will and Testament.  This list when signed and dated by you listing all the items of personal property and clearly indicating who gets what is legal and enforceable.  You can revise the list any time you choose without incurring legal fees. While your Will should not mention specific items of personal property, it should reference the existence of this list.  If it does not, the list may not be binding.

Clients are wise to take care of this now.   I have seen children feud over parents’ personal items, even those without cash value.  On the other hand, I’ve noticed that those who have grown up in a virtual, digital world tend to avoid collecting “stuff”.  So be sure to ask your children if they really want your items before you go to the trouble of writing up your list.

To discuss your NJ estate planning and Last Wills and Testament matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County NJ Estate Planning and Last Wills & Testament Attorney

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