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Giving sentimental items a place in your estate plan

This summer, the family of deceased Coast Guard captain Albert Frost almost lost the key to the city of Washington, presented to him in 1957. Only through a set of unlikely coincidences were they able to retrieve it before it was sold through an online auction.

Whether or not they possess a high monetary value, sentimental items tend to slip through the cracks in most people's estate plans. If you want to ensure you pass on treasured pieces, including them in your estate plan can prevent losses and disputes.

Including personal property items in your will

Florida law refers to specific items of personal property as "tangible personal property" (TPP). One way to bequeath such items to a specific person is to include a specific paragraph in your will making this disposition.

Disposition through a separate writing

Alternatively, your will can state that if you leave a list of TPP and intended beneficiaries for each item, that list should be considered part of your bequest. This method allows you to add to or change the list of items and/or recipients without having to make changes to the main will document.

Legal requirements

The law does impose certain constraints on disposing of TPP through a separate writing. First of all, such a list only holds validity for items not otherwise addressed in the will. For example, if you leave a necklace to Beneficiary A in your will, then draft a separate writing that includes leaving the same necklace to Beneficiary B, the will's provision prevails and Beneficiary A gets the necklace.

The separate writing may only deal with TPP, not real estate, bank accounts or commercial assets. To be valid, the separate writing must include a description of the items and recipients that would provide enough information to identify each. The testator must sign the list.

You may prepare a separate writing at any time, and you may change its provisions later. If several writings exist, courts generally enforce the last one, so be sure to date each document.

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