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Personal Property List

Under Minnesota law, upon death, a person can dispose of tangible personal property through a written list that is referenced in a will or trust. The list cannot dispose of money and coin collections or property used in a trade or business. A personal property list is effective in ensuring that certain items that you own (i.e., jewelry, family heirlooms, etc.) are distributed to the person whom you want to have it (i.e. devisee).  For example, if you want certain jewelry to go to specific members of your family, you can make a specific gift in your will/trust or you can make that distribution through a personal property list.

A personal property list is less cumbersome and generally more efficient than giving tangible personal property through your will/trust. That is because if, for example, you give a specific necklace to your granddaughter in your will/trust, but then you sell that necklace and purchase a different necklace that you want to go to your granddaughter, instead of having to sign a codicil to your will or amend your trust and having it properly notarized and witnessed, you can simply destroy your personal property list and create a new one. Personal property lists do not require a notary or witness(es). However, the personal property list must be in your handwriting or signed by you, and it must describe the items and the devisee with reasonable certainty.

Failing to provide reasonable certainty could result in your wishes not being followed or it could result in a person challenging your wishes. In addition, if a personal property list is not properly drafted and executed that could result in your estate, which did not need to be probated having to be probated. Furthermore, it could result in your estate having to go through formal probate rather than informal probate (note: informal probate is generally less expensive than formal probate).

Here are some tips in drafting your personal property list:

  • Never list money (this also includes coin collections);
  • Never list real property (i.e., your house);
  • Never list your business or assets of your business;
  • State with specificity the person’s name (note: use the person’s legal name rather than a nickname);
  • State the person’s first and last name (note: do not state “my granddaughter Mary”, but rather state Mary’s legal name);
  • If you are stating a category such as “my jewelry to my grandchildren Mary Smith and Jane Smith,” include a provision in the will as to the process of dividing the jewelry (i.e., who gets to pick first, etc.); and
  • Always sign it (even if the list is in your handwriting).

Spangler and de Stefano, PLLP help clients with their estate planning (refers to providing for the care of your minor children and/or specific needs beneficiaries while giving what you want to whom you want at the last cost possible while avoiding estate taxes and planning for incapacity).

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Spangler and de Stefano, PLLP and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.