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Distributing Personal Effects: Use an Estate Planning Letter

Our clients frequently ask how their personal items will be distributed upon their passing. These items usually include jewelry, tools, artwork, and family heirlooms. Often times, these items are part of the residual estate and are sold at death, with the proceeds divided among the beneficiaries.  Other times, family members decide who gets what, which often leads to family quarrels. One way to keep personal items in the family and reduce the likelihood of arguments, is to use an estate planning letter, also referred to as a Memorandum of Tangible Personal Property.

An estate planning letter is a document that allows you to describe personal property and who gets that property upon your passing. Arizona requires the following for an estate planning letter to be valid:

  • You must have a valid will or trust.
  • The letter must either be in your handwriting or be signed by you and describe the items and the beneficiaries with reasonable certainty.
  • The letter may be referred to as one to be in existence at the time of your passing and it

may be prepared before or after the execution of your will or trust

  • You may alter the letter after its initial preparation

Some people ask if they are able to distribute their personal property directly in their living trust or will.  We do not recommend doing this. Using an estate planning letter is more practical and offers more flexibility than a trust or a will.  For example, if you listed personal property directly in your trust, you would be required to amend the trust every time you want add or remove personal effects or want to change beneficiaries. This can be costly and time consuming. An estate planning letter allows you to change items and individuals at any time without a formal amendment. In addition, listing your personal effects in your handwriting leaves little doubt as to your intent, making a legal challenge more difficult.

If you have a valid trust or will, or you want to establish a trust or will, and would like to create an estate planning letter, the attorneys at Morris Hall are ready to assist you.

 Phoenix, AZ Estate and Trust Lawyer Darren RichardsonContributed by MH Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney, Darren Richardson.  

Why Choose Morris Hall:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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