As the end of the year approaches, I’m getting lots of calls from people who want to get their wills done before 2021 arrives. For many, 2020 has brought into focus the importance of having an estate plan. As those discussions progress, we inevitably end up talking about the mechanics of their estate plan. After the big items, we get to the family heirlooms. They often aren’t valuable in monetary terms but have sentimental value. Down the road, children might get married, and the heirlooms might then go to different people. You don’t need to amend or change your will every time there is a life event or you change your mind. Instead, you can use a personal property memorandum to get these heirlooms taken care of.
What Is A Personal Property Memorandum?
A Personal Property Memorandum (“PPM”) is a separate document that lists how you want specific personal property to be distributed. Think of small things around the house. They might not have a large monetary value, but you know your cousin really loved that small art print you brought back from Vienna.
When you create a PPM, you don’t need to have it witnessed and notarized. It’s a less formal document, although you should keep it with your will. If you need to change it, you can do that on your own, but be sure to sign and date the new version. That way a person reviewing the PPMs (if there are multiple) can figure out which represents your most recent wishes.
What’s In a PPM?
Common items that you can put in a PPM,
- China and silverware
- Collections (stamps, baseball cards, etc.)
But you shouldn’t put things like,
- Bank accounts
- Copyrights and Trademarks
- Stocks and other investments
into your PPM.
What Is Required?
The requirements for a PPM are less formal than a will or trust. The PPM,
- Must be signed by you or be in your handwriting;
- Must be referred to in your will; and
- Must describe the property and who will be getting it with “reasonable certainty.”
Although it is not technically required, it’s a good idea to have your PPM dated as I described above.
If you are dealing with very valuable assets (your authentic Van Gogh for example), it’s better to put those items in your will or trust. But for smaller items (grandma’s collection of nutcrackers), a PPM is a good way to ensure they get to the right person.
If you don’t have a will yet, or if you have one that you may need to update to include a Personal Property Memorandum, let's set up a Legal Strategy Session and we can review the best options for you.