A Last Will and Testament is the foundation of any estate plan. Exactly what you choose to include in your Will, however, is a very individual decision. For some, a Will contains very explicit instructions and details while for others it is essentially just a foundation document that leads to other estate planning documents. A personal property memorandum is one such document.
A personal property memorandum, or PPM, is essentially a detailed list of items owned by you along with instructions for their disposition upon your death. There are two main reasons why people choose to include a PPM in their estate plan. One reason is that they have property that they prefer to keep out of the public probate process. The other is a matter of convenience. If you include specific bequests within your Will itself and then wish to make even a minor change, you will be required to go through the very formal process of executing a new Will or adding a codicil or amendment. Changing a PPM, on the other hand, is much easier.
While a PPM may sound like the perfect solution for handling your family heirlooms, extensive stamp collection, or library full of books, beware that a PPM is not legally binding in all states. In states where a PPM is legally binding, there may be specific steps that are required to make it binding. Even if your state does not recognize a PPM as an official component of your estate plan, it can often go a long way toward settling family disputes anyway. Heirs often find it harder to argue that they were promised an heirloom when you executed a document in your own handwriting indicating otherwise.
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