Who Gets the Family Jewels?

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Attorney Dorothy L. Korszen - Trusts & Estates - Venice Florida

Attorney Dorothy L. Korszen
Dorothy’s practice focuses on trusts and estates, real estate, and business and corporate law.

Many people struggle with the issue of who should inherit family heirlooms and how to make this happen.  Under Florida law, the simplest way to distribute tangible personal property is to simply write it on a list, called a Separate Writing, then sign and date your list.  This is authorized only if your Last Will and Testament refers to a Separate Writing to dispose of items of tangible personal property.  The Separate Writing cannot be used to dispose of property used in trade or business.  In addition, it cannot be used to distribute real property or intangible property (i.e., investments, bank accounts, or cash). This is an effective and efficient manner of distributing jewelry, photographs, artwork, vehicles, and family heirlooms.

Any items left to persons under a Separate Writing will be in addition to any distributions made under your Will or Trust unless you provide otherwise.  Therefore, if you are leaving someone an expensive item and you wish the value to be included as part of that person’s share of your estate, you would have to state that in your Will or Trust.

If you change your mind about items gifted through your Separate Writing, you can destroy the prior document and create a new one.  You do not need to meet with an attorney to create a Separate Writing.  Also, you can create more than one Separate Writing.  The most current document will revoke any inconsistent provisions of a prior writing.

Alternatively, you can designate items of tangible personal property as specific bequests in your Last Will and Testament.  However, if you change your mind, you will have to either redo your Will or prepare a Codicil to your Will, which will usually result in additional attorney fees. Also, we often find that people do not review their Wills on a regular basis, so at the time of your passing, you may not even own the items specifically bequeathed in your Will.  Because it is simpler to revise a Separate Writing, you may be more likely to keep that document up to date.

Finally, one way to decide who will get your family heirlooms is to make gifts while you are living.  This will allow you to enjoy seeing your loved ones receive your treasured items.

If you need advice or clarification of these concepts, please consult with your estate planning attorney.