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Using A Personal Property Memorandum In Estate Planning

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When someone passes away, it is likely that they have estate planning documents that specify how they want their valuable property to be disbursed among their heirs. However, it is far too common for people to neglect their personal items, any of which may have great sentimental value to the members of their family, and because of this, fights among the decedent’s family can happen. In order to avoid these potentially messy disputes, Florida and many other states allow people planning their estates to create what is known as a personal property memorandum (PPM). Having one of these can help smooth over any issues after your passing.

Must Comply With Florida Law

A personal property memorandum is used to establish who gets items that may not have much financial value, but have great sentimental value for a deceased person’s family and friends. There are several advantages to having one in addition to the obvious settling of potential disputes – perhaps the most important is that in Florida, a PPM is much easier to modify than a will or a trust. Since personal property will come and go much more often than, say, real property or high-value assets, it stands to reason that a PPM would be easier to alter than a more complex legal document.

That said, a PPM cannot just be a handwritten list of items. Florida law does establish certain criteria that must be met in order for it to be legally binding. Perhaps the most important is that you must have a will; a PPM cannot stand alone. It must be a supplement to an existing Last Will and Testament. The memorandum must also be signed and dated by the testator (the creator), and identify the items the testator intends to dispose of with ‘reasonable certainty.’ If the memo does not help to identify the item that you intend to give to a certain person, there is no real point in having it.

Cannot Be Used With All Property

One important misconception to clear up about personal property memoranda is that they cannot be used to dispose of all types of property. Only “tangible personal property” can be willed to beneficiaries with a PPM; that is, property that can be moved, and has physical form (as opposed to real estate, or intangible property like bank accounts or securities). However, there are even exceptions to this; for example, cash is a common anomaly. While one can touch and move cash and other monetary items like promissory notes, they do not count as tangible personal property for a variety of reasons.

One type of asset whose inclusion can confuse some is motor vehicles. Many may think that a vehicle with a low enough value can be simply given to another person – but the majority of motor vehicles are titled, which means that they already have a specified owner or owners. Even if a motor vehicle has no title, it is still generally a good idea to dispose of it via your will or trust – there are too many potential pitfalls that may cause the very issues that a PPM seeks to prevent. Still, each case is different, which is all the more reason to consult a knowledgeable attorney to ensure your documents are all in order.

Contact A Naples Estate Planning Attorney

If you have questions, concerns or just want to set up a complimentary consultation to discuss your personal legal issues in a confidential setting, contact James R. Nici, the Managing Partner of Nici Law Firm, a Naples estate planning attorney with almost 30 years of legal experience.  This may be the first step toward ensuring all is how you want it to be going forward. Contact our offices today via our website, or on the telephone at 239-449-6150, to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Resources:

flhsmv.gov/motor-vehicles-tags-titles/liens-and-titles/

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0732/Sections/0732.515.html

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