What is a Personal Property Memorandum

Most people assume that personal property (at least, items of value, such as jewelry) is best passed on via a specific bequest in a Last Will and Testament. However, Florida statute (§732.515) allows for an alternative, and usually better, way to hande these items.

Tangible personal property may be bequested in a writing that is separate from your Will, often called a "personal property memorandum." The benefit of this memorandum is that if you change your mind, or if you sell or lose the item in question, you can modify or remove the bequest without amending or re-doing your Will.

"Tangible personal property" is any moveable, physical object: such as vehicles, appliances, collectibles, jewelry, furniture, or clothing. Items that are not tangible personal property include real estate or financial assets (cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, notes, etc.).

The memorandum must be referenced in your Will and should:

  1. Clearly describe the item;

  2. Clearly identify who you want to receive the item;

  3. Clearly be a writing intended to make the bequest as part of your Will;

  4. Be signed and dated by you;

You should clearly indicate who you is beneficiary of each item, providing their complete name, address, and relationship to you (e.g., son, daughter, dear friend, confidante).

You should also clearly describe the item so that your personal representative and loved ones will easily identify which item you are referencing. For example, if you own three gold watches, identify “my gold, Rolex Presidential watch” rather than “my gold watch.” You can even photograph the item for reference and keep the photos with the memorandum.

The memorandum can be written by hand or it can be a typed form completed by you (our office includes such a form as part of the Will packets we provide to our clients).

Keep the original memo with your original Will and give a copy to a trusted person or your attorney.

What if the beneficiary of an item is no longer alive? Your Will should give your Personal Representative authority to distribute such items (or make them part of your residuary estate).

If you no longer own a specified item when you die the bequest "lapses," and is no longer valid.

As with all legal formalities involving Wills and estates, the law can change, and different states have different ways of handling these matters. It is best to consult with your attorney before taking any steps that may have repercussions after you die.