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How can you avoid confusion with your Last Will and Testament

How can you avoid confusion with your Last Will and Testament Image

By Olivia Wann, JD

After having practiced law in Tennessee the last 12 years and having drafted hundreds and hundreds of wills, I’ve come to fully appreciate the value of a Personal Property Memorandum. 

Tennessee law allows you to use a personal property memorandum as an extension of your will and even a trust for the purpose of devising tangible personal property. Examples of tangible personal property include vehicles, furniture, sporting goods, antiques and jewelry. 

Some individuals simply lump personal property together and distribute it to a certain individual or they group their children together. For example, the will may read, “My personal representative shall distribute my personal tangible property to my three children.”  Although this is an effective way to transfer property, conflict can arise. Who will receive a particular family heirloom? 

Some individuals, when writing their will may prefer a specific bequest. For example, an individual may prefer to give a special sentimental item such as a wedding ring to a daughter while the son receives the firearms.

If you include the gifts of tangible personal property in the will and in time acquire more items or prefer to change the beneficiary, then the will must be either revised or supplemented with a codicil. This can result in added costs and legal fees. Additionally, if you utilize a codicil, the first intended beneficiary will recognize that the gift was changed to a different individual. 

To avoid these blunders, utilize the Personal Property Memorandum. Entitle the document specifically as a Personal Property Memorandum.  List the individuals receiving the specified item of property. It’s helpful to list their contact information.  If you are married, indicate whether the gift is made only if the spouse is deceased.  According to the statute, TCA 32-3-115, the document must be either in the handwriting of the individual or signed by him or her. The document must be dated. The items must be described with reasonable certainty. 

There should be a signature line and a date. The document is either prepared when the will is signed or after, not before.  The beauty of the Personal Property Memorandum is that you can change the document at your leisure. Remember—good planning avoids family conflict later.    

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