This weekend I will head “home” to the Iowa farm where I was raised to celebrate Christmas with my parents and siblings and our families. My childhood home is still filled with many family heirlooms and antiques that were prevalent in my childhood memories. We will eat our Christmas meal on my parents’ wedding china while seated at the oak farm table where we’ve shared literally thousands of meals. Salt and pepper shakers from our beloved great-aunts’ collection will be on the table. After our meal, the grandkids will trek out to the barn — full of my dad’s tools —  for hayloft basketball, and at the end of the night, I’ll fall asleep in the same antique walnut bed I slumbered in during high school. 

“If you want something when we’re gone, put your name on the bottom,” our parents have said so often it’s turned into a running joke. However, writing names in Sharpie on a piece of masking tape isn’t the best way to make sure family heirlooms get passed to the loved ones of your choice. Masking tape falls off, and used that way, Sharpie isn’t legally binding.  

In the state of Minnesota, you can prevent these problems by adding items to your tangible personal property list. 

While this list used to be part of the official will, Minnesota now allows your list of tangible personal property to be a separate document. This allows individuals to revise the list at any time without the assistance of an attorney. However, the list must be referenced in an official will. Whether you write the list before or after creating your will is up to you! 

What This List Includes 

While most of your estate planning pertains to bigger assets like real estate and bank accounts, your tangible personal property list includes the small items that may hold more significant sentimental value. Here is where you can pass on family jewelry, artwork, and furniture. You can also include collections (except for coin collections) and vehicles. (Perhaps someday I’ll pass on the collection of holiday Barbies my parents thought might fund my future retirement.)  Because of their sentimental value, it’s essential to include these items in your estate planning to hopefully avoid dispute amongst heirs. Keep in mind that you should consult with your attorney about some specific items, including firearms. 

How This List Can Be Used 

This list should make the item and the recipient as clear as possible. Whether you’re including your grandmother’s antique emerald wedding ring or a 1965 Aston Martin D85, make sure that the property is easily identifiable by a third party. Similarly, the recipient should also be easily identifiable. “John” will not be as helpful as a full name and address. Some clients even include photographs and valuations of their items. 

This list needs to be signed by the testator — even in Sharpie! — and it can be updated at any time without notarization. If you add a new piece of art to your collection or give a jewelry heirloom to a niece for her birthday, then you can add and delete those items accordingly.  

The adage is true: you can’t take it with you. However, with the use of your tangible personal property list and some careful estate planning, you can be sure that your assets and sentimental items will be passed on according to your wishes after you have died. 

If you’d like to get started with your own estate planning, contact Schromen Law, LLC today. We can offer more guidance for your tangible personal property list at a free consultation. 

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

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  1. […] focuses on the passing of your physical assets. What will happen to your house, your investments, your special collections, your jewelry? Those are all important things to consider, but perhaps even more important is […]

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