The information in this article was written by Steve Hartnett of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and is being provided to you courtesy of Attorney Nicole Livingston of Sinclair Prosser Gasior
In Kicking the Bucket List, Gail Rubin offers a helpful list of 100 things to do before you die. As I mentioned in a prior blog, this is a good, light read and planning tool to help you, your clients, and their loved ones. Rubin has been a speaker at a past event of the American Academy and is a regular contributor to the Academy blog. In this blog, I’ll look at another helpful hint from her book.
Many of Rubin’s tips have to do with getting rid of unwanted items. But, Tip 42 might be the best tip in Rubin’s book. It is to label items that you keep. By labeling an item, you can explain the significance of it. For example, I have a pocket watch that belonged to my grandfather. He emigrated from Ireland and he died when my father was a child. The watch is one of very few items we have from my grandfather and my father remembered playing with it when he was a child. Unlabeled, it’s just another watch in an era of diminishing watch use. Labeled, it is a symbol of the hope my grandfather had in this new land after fleeing desperate times in Ireland.
Generally, tangible personal property can be disposed of by a writing which is independent of a Will or Trust, as long as such list is referenced in the Will or Trust and the writing is signed and dated. The list itself need not be witnessed nor have other formalities. Such a list can be a great method to dispose of tangible personal property, like a pocket watch, especially when it has emotional significance. Such a list needs to describe the items sufficiently to identify them. The list could be something like this:
- Gold pocket watch (belonged to dad’s father and purchased upon his arrival to America) to my nephew, Daniel Hartnett.
- Gold St. Christopher medal (Acquired by my godfather on a trip to Rome, blessed by Pope John XXIII, given to me for my baptism) to my niece, Kathleen List.
The tangible personal property list can describe and number the items, as above. You can then put a tag with a corresponding number on each item to be disposed of in this manner.
In this way, you can pass on your legacy, as well as your belongings.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.