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Consider Creating a Flexible Estate Plan

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It you’re concerned with who may get your personal property when you pass away, you should consider creating a flexible estate plan. When you first sit down to begin your estate planning, there will usually be several standard requirements for your particular jurisdiction. In some states, your Will must be signed by a testator (a person whose property is being controlled by a Will) and this signature should have at least two witnesses.

These rules will vary somewhat from state to state. In many states, there is a requirement for three witnesses. In others, your Will doesn’t even need a single witness, but only if it is entirely in the handwriting of the testator – as well as signed by the testator. These rules do vary quite a bit between states, and they are often quite specific with little room for error. It may be helpful to check with an estate planning attorney in your area when considering your state’s specific legal requirements.

It’s for these very reasons that you may want to choose a flexible estate plan. A Will (or Trust) can tell others how your tangible personal property is disposed of when you die. You can choose to have it reference another document that disposes of any such property – so that you can choose to do this planning later, or even change things at your leisure.

Tangible personal property is basically anything that you can touch. However, it must be personal property, so this would not include real estate such as a home or land. It also cannot be cash. A piece of tangible personal property may include furnishings, household items, jewelry, collectibles, antiques, etc. Many folks choose to include things on this type of list which might not be their most valuable personal possessions, but are those which have deep emotional meaning for the family.

How to Create a Flexible Estate Plan

Follow us on this short story for an example of how to create flexibility within your own estate planning documents.

Mary had a Will established. Her Will included a reference to include a list of her tangible personal property. She then signed the Will in accordance with her state’s requirements, which happened to need two signatory witnesses. The Will also provided that if Mary no longer maintained such a list, her property would be equally divided between her three children, Stephan, Sharon, and John.

So, Mary ends up making a list and identifies her dining room set as an item that should go to her son Stephan. She decides that her wedding ring and should be given to Sharon. She also identified her grandmother’s tea service and said it should go to John.

However, when Mary recently sat down and had a conversation with her children, she realized that she had everything all wrong. Sharon was the one who wanted the tea service. No problem, Mary simply prepared a new list which stated who should get each item, signed it and dated it. By doing this, she didn’t have to go through anything drastic with her estate planning just to make a straightforward change, but it was the statements she made in her initial Will that allowed for this change.

Of course, if Mary’s situation drastically changes or there’s a substantial change in the law, Mary should see always make an appointment to see her estate planning attorney to determine if the laws have changed, or if other changes might be appropriate for her situation.

A flexible estate plan can allow you to make simple changes regarding tangible personal property, without much trouble at all. Feel free to call our estate planning attorneys at 509-328-2150 to see if a tangible property list is right for you. Want to read more about estate planning? Check out this link from the American Bar Association.

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