Special Bequests for Special People
Having a Last Will and Testament can help ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. Yet almost two out of three Americans have not taken this important step.1
If you don’t have a will, it would be wise to create one. If you already have a will, you may want to review it periodically to make sure it still reflects your intentions and current family situation — and you might want to make some special bequests.
More Than Just “Things”
There are two ways to leave assets in a will: a general bequest and a specific bequest. For many people, the general bequest is fairly straightforward. For example, you might leave the bulk of your estate to your spouse, with your children as contingent beneficiaries.
However, there also may be specific items that you want to leave to a particular person — a family member or a friend. It might be a piece of jewelry, a musical instrument, a work of art, a furniture set, even an old car. Sometimes these “things” can have more meaning to your heirs than any money you may leave them. And though it’s fairly easy to divide financial assets among multiple heirs, a treasured object cannot be divided. By taking steps now, you can help avoid potential conflicts.
You could make specific bequests in your will, but it might be easier to create a personal property memorandum in which you simply list each item and who you want to inherit it. You should sign and date the memorandum, but you do not need to have your signature witnessed or notarized because the memorandum in itself is not a legal document. In most states, you can make it a legal document by referring to it in your will. Even if your state does not consider the memorandum legally binding, your heirs will have a clear indication of your intentions.
Most types of tangible personal property may be included in a memorandum, but you cannot use it to bequeath real estate or intangible property such as money, bank accounts, securities, and copyrights. Be sure to consult with an experienced estate planning professional who is familiar with the laws of your state.