Sometimes, estate planning attorneys deal with some unusual items. Our clients have collections of items, like baseball cards, books, or dolls. Some of these items can be quite rare and valuable. Other times, the items may not have significant monetary value, but they may have great emotional value due to the connection with the individual and their past.
There are two ways to handle these items in an estate plan, if the items are tangible personal property. First, they simply may be listed on the tangible personal property list which is referenced in the estate plan and on which the client lists the items with sufficient specificity to identify the items. The client lists to whom the items are to pass and then signs it and dates it. In most, if not all, states, this tangible personal property list referenced in other estate planning documents, like a trust, need not have the normal formalities of a Will or trust. That is a very easy way for a client to achieve their goal. It is also very flexible, as the client can change their mind and do so without redoing their entire plan. They simply complete a new list and sign it and date it.
However, even if the item is tangible personal property, if the item is of particularly high monetary or emotional value, you may consider listing it with specificity as a specific bequest in the trust or Will. This can help avoid (or diminish) a family conflict because of the increased formalities involved.
A relatively new television program on the Fox Business cable network, Strange Inheritances, examines some odd bequests. While these are mostly tangible personal property, some are not. If you think you have had a client with a particularly unusual bequest, Strange Inheritances wants to hear from you and your client. You might be on the program! Also, please post about your unusual bequests in the comments.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555