If you ever watched a movie, where they had a lawyer reading through a will and reading out loud who gets what, then you know what a specific distribution is.

I've seen plenty of movies over the years where they have the attorney in his old-fashioned office sitting in big chairs. The family is laid out in front of them, everyone's sitting there, dressed in black, they've got a tissue and they're sad. And the lawyer reads the will out loud word by word as to who's getting one. We don't do that these days. I mean, you can do it in some places, but you don't normally have to do that. You're really going to be taking the will to your local probate court and having them sign off on the administrator or the personal representative or the executor to then divide up the property.

Specific Distributions

But all those movie scenes give us a great example of what specific distributions are. What it is, is just what it sounds like. A specific thing is being given to a specific person. So back in the movies, the will may say that "my favorite Corvette is given to my son Jimmy, and the rest of everything goes to my wife" or in the more scandalous movies, "I give the jet, the house, the Porsche and everything and all of my worldly possessions to my mistress Jenny, and to my wife, I give my stamp collection."

Each movie is different, but it gives you an idea of what a specific distribution is. It's often gonna be laid out simply,

  • Who is it being given to? (Who was the person receiving the distribution?)
  • What type of property is involved? (Is it money, is it real estate, is it something else or stamp collection or baseball cards?)
  • How much is being distributed? (Especially in the case of money, it could be $10,000 to this son, $20,000 to this daughter, $40,000 to my wife, and $2 million to my mistress)
  • Another consideration is what happens if that person dies before you? So that's not usually covered from movies, but there's usually a sentence at the end saying if Jimmy doesn't survive me that his share lapses meaning it goes away. Or if Jimmy doesn't survive me, then it's given to his sister Jan.

It's usually very straightforward. For example, it could be

"As soon as practicable after my death, I give and bequeath $10,000 to John Doe. If John Doe is deceased, then this distribution will lapse this property instead will be distributed under the other provisions of my will. Property passing under this section passes free of any administrative expenses or death taxes."

It's a lot of legal-speak for saying, cousin Jimmy gets the car or John Doe gets $10,000.

How Do I Create a Specific Distribution?

You have two ways to do it. You can try to do it yourself. But chances are, you know that's not a good idea. So option two is to work with a professional. Talk to your financial advisor, see if there are certain assets that should have a specific distribution on them. If you already have a will, you can discuss updating the will with either a new a will or a codicil to change the specific distributions. And if you don't have a will, when you're talking to the attorney, you can say I have my general ideas, but I have these specific things that need to go to these specific people.

If you want to talk about how you can add specific distributions to your estate plan, let's set up a complimentary Legal Strategy Session to discuss the best options for you and your family.

I wish I could tell you it's going to be as exciting and fun as it seems to be in the movies with everyone dressed in black and their tissues and everything else. But the reality is it's going to be a much more straightforward process to make sure that the right people are receiving the right property.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.