Tangible Personal Property

The tangible personal property occupies a unique and often sentimental place.

These physical assets hold intrinsic value beyond their monetary worth.

This blog post explores the legal considerations surrounding tangible personal property in wills.

Defining Tangible Personal Property

Tangible personal property encompasses a wide array of assets.

These include but are not limited to jewelry, artwork, furniture, collectibles, clothing, vehicles, and household items. 

These assets are distinguished from real property (real estate) and intangible assets by their physical nature. 

The Role Of A Will

A last will is a fundamental legal document that allows individuals to dictate how their assets will be distributed. 

Within this document, tangible personal property can be specifically addressed.

It ensures that cherished possessions are bequeathed to chosen beneficiaries.

Key Considerations

The key considerations are as follows:

Clarity And Specificity: 

To prevent potential disputes among heirs, it is essential to identify each item of tangible personal property to be distributed.

Personal Letters: 

Some testators choose to include personal letters or instructions within their will.

It details their wishes regarding distributing specific items. 

These letters can provide invaluable context to beneficiaries.

Alternative Distribution Methods: 

When multiple beneficiaries express interest in the same item, the testator may designate alternative distribution methods.

These are drawing lots or allowing beneficiaries to negotiate among themselves.

Appraisals: 

For valuable items, obtaining professional appraisals can help determine fair market value.

This is particularly important for tax purposes and equitable distribution among beneficiaries.

Executor’s Role: 

The estate executor is pivotal in ensuring the testator’s wishes are carried out faithfully. 

They must inventory, safeguard, and distribute the tangible personal property per the will’s instructions.

Challenges And Solutions

Disputes over tangible personal property can lead to emotional strain and legal battles among heirs. 

To mitigate such challenges, consider the following strategies:

Open Communication: 

Encourage open dialogue among family members.

This is to address potential conflicts and clarify the testator’s intentions.

Mediation: 

In disagreement, mediation can provide a less adversarial means of resolving disputes.

It also preserves family relationships.

Updating The Will: 

As circumstances change, periodically review and update the will to reflect current wishes and familial dynamics.

Example 1 – The Smith Family Heirlooms

In this scenario, John Smith is writing his will and wants to distribute some of his tangible personal property to his children, Sarah and David.

John’s will might include a provision like this:

I bequeath my collection of antique pocket watches, which I have kept in the family for generations, to my daughter, Sarah. I hope she will cherish and maintain this family heirloom. Additionally, I leave my vintage record player and vinyl record collection to my son, David. I’ve spent many memorable evenings enjoying music with him, and I know he will appreciate these items as much as I have.

In this example, the tangible personal property includes antique pocket watches, a vintage record player, and vinyl records.

John specifies who will inherit each item and expresses his sentimental attachment to these possessions.

Example 2 – Estate Of Elizabeth Anderson

In this scenario, Elizabeth Anderson is creating her will and wants to distribute her tangible personal property among her close friends and family.

Her will might include a provision like this:

I hereby distribute my tangible personal property as follows: I leave my jewelry collection, including my diamond necklace, pearl earrings, and gold bracelet, to my niece, Emily. To my dear friend, Susan, I bequeath my antique china set, which has been a part of many memorable dinners we’ve shared over the years. Finally, I leave my vintage sports car to my son, Michael, as he has always admired it and has fond memories of our road trips together.”

Elizabeth mentions tangible personal property like jewelry, an antique china set, and a vintage sports car in this example. 

She designates who will inherit each item and provides a brief context for her decisions.