Who Gets What? Making Gifts of Personal Property

When creating your Will, you will likely think about who should receive your most valuable and memorable personal possessions after you pass away.  Maybe you would like to pass along your heirloom jewelry to your daughter or a valuable painting to your grandson.  What options do you have to make sure that your personal belongings end up in the right hands after you pass away?

In Indiana, you have two options for making gifts of specific personal items upon your death.  The first option is to list specific gifts in the body of your Will.  In Ohio and a handful of other states, this is the only available option.  Alternatively, in most states, including Indiana, you may instead utilize a separate Memorandum of Tangible Personal Property to list specific gifts of personal property.  How do these options differ?

When gifts are listed in the body of your Will, the only way to add, rescind, or modify a specific gift is to redo your Will or make an amendment through a Codicil.  Any time you execute a Will or Codicil, formalities must be followed in order to make alterations binding.

On the other hand, as long as your Will refers to your separate Memorandum of Tangible Personal Property, you may add, rescind, or modify specific gifts of personal property in your Memorandum as you please without worrying about the formalities required for Wills and Codicils.  A Memorandum of Tangible Personal Property can be useful in eliminating doubt or disagreement among loved ones as to your last wishes.  Keep in mind that a Memorandum of Tangible Personal Property can be used only to pass tangible personal possessions.  Such a device cannot be used to pass real estate or intangible property such as stocks, bonds, or bank accounts.