When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, one of the most difficult things for our family to deal with as far as her estate was concerned was who should get her personal belongings; many of which held significant sentimental value to her and us. The main reason for the difficulty is that we wanted to make sure that her wishes were carried out as much as possible. However, she did not leave any written instructions and—unsurprisingly—no one could exactly remember her verbal instructions about how she wanted her belongings divided.
When consulting with clients about estate planning matters, I am often asked, “What can I do to make sure my sentimental items go to my loved ones after my death?” Often, the client has a few specific items (a treasured painting, sports memorabilia, or heirloom jewelry, for example) in mind but doesn’t want to give them away until after their death. A formal last will and testament or trust is generally required to transfer most types of property after the owner’s death. However, at the time most people decide to make a will/trust, they haven’t fully sorted out who should get all their sentimental belongings.
Fortunately, Nevada and most other states have a solution to this conundrum, which allows a person to make a written list specifying who should receive tangible, personal property after death. The list can be created any time after a will/trust is made, as long as the list is signed, dated, and directly references the will/trust. The personal property should reasonably describe the items and the people you want to receive them (the more specific, the easier time your kids will have deciphering it!) and it can be added to or otherwise changed at any time.
There is no limit on how much personal property may be given away with such a list. The most common items include jewelry, art, coins, guns, and family heirlooms. You can’t include cash, titles to property or cars, or stocks, all of which must be transferred via will or trust.
Clifford Gravett lives in Mesquite and is an attorney with Bingham Snow & Caldwell. He is licensed to practice in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. He can be reached at 702-346-7300, email@example.com, or 840 Pinnacle Court, Suite 202 in Mesquite.