Florida Estate Law: Specific Bequests Of Tangible Property
Imagine a family heirloom with great sentimental value, but little economic value, such as a book written and signed by a family ancestor. It’s going to make a big difference whether your intended your beneficiary to receive the actual book or the ten dollars that is received when the book is sold to satisfy estate creditors. You need to take special care when your intention is to bequeath certain property, rather than to merely distribute the proceeds of the sale of that property.
The Most Popular Reason for Making Specific Bequests
If, for example, you are a widow with four children, it is certainly simpler to leave a quarter of your estate to each of your children. That approach won’t tell your children, however, who gets the grandfather clock and who gets the 14th century Madagascar bracelet. If more than one of your children want these things, they are going to have to either come to an agreement or fight it out. Fighting it out can get ugly and abrasive, and it can get expensive if it takes place in court.
Listing It All in Your Will
One way to make specific bequests is to include a complete list of these bequests in your will. But what if someone changes their mind? What if you acquire a new item that you wish to bequeath? What if one of your beneficiaries dies before you do? Doing it this way could result in the addition of endless codicils (amendments) to your will, each of which would have to comply with the formal requirements for a will (witnesses, etc.).
Executing a Personal Property Memorandum
A personal property memorandum is simply a list of specific personal property, along with directions on how it should be distributed after you die (“I hereby bequeath my grandfather clock to my son Louis”, etc.). It is not a part of the will, which offers you a great convenience. Instead of creating a codicil to your will and complying with all formal requirements every time you want to change something, simply cut, paste and print, then re-sign your will.
You don’t even need witnesses to your signature the way you do for your will. You only need to amend your will once–to add a sentence referring to your personal property memorandum. This is known as “incorporation by reference”, and it is all you need to make your personal property memorandum legally valid. It will remain valid no matter how many times you change it, as long as you provide a fresh signature each time. Keep it where it can be easily located.
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