For many people, the personal items that are passed down in an estate plan are as important as the cash, real property, and investment accounts. Family heirlooms, for example, can have more sentimental value to you than your bank account. If you have a significant number of personal property items that you need to include in your estate plan, or if you simply do not want to include them in the public portion of the probate process, you may wish to create a personal property memorandum.
A personal property memorandum is essentially just a list of personal items with directions regarding who will receive which item. Once the memo has been created, you will reference it in your Last Will and Testament. The catch, however, is that not all states consider a personal property memorandum to be legally binding. Check with your estate planning attorney to determine whether the state in which you plan to execute your Last Will and Testament recognizes a personal property memorandum.
One significant benefit to creating a memo is that if you need to make a small change to how you wish property to be distributed, you can redo the memo without having to go through the formalities required to change your Will. In practical terms, even in states where a personal property memorandum is not legally binding, it can often go a long way toward settling disputed between beneficiaries. When your children, for example, are able to see in your own handwriting what your intentions were, they often accept the distribution of property without a fight.