What is a Personal Property Memorandum for a Will?


One of the primary reasons for creating a Last Will & Testament is to specify what you would like to happen to your assets, or the things you own, after you die. Some examples include financial assets, such as bank accounts, brokerage or retirement accounts, real property, such as houses and buildings, and tangible personal property, such as jewelry, artwork, collectibles, furniture and other personal effects.

A personal property memorandum, also called a memorandum of personal property or a separate writing memorandum, is a separate document that you can include with your will to specify who you would like to inherit specific pieces of tangible personal property.

What are the benefits of a personal property memorandum?

Throughout our lives we accumulate various pieces of tangible personal property. Rather than creating a new will any time you would like to add a new item, remove an item or change who gets what, you can simply destroy an old personal property memorandum and replace it with a new one. You do not need to sign your personal property memorandum in the presence of witnesses or have any witnesses sign it, making it a much simpler process to amend it than your will.

How do you create a personal property memorandum?

In order for the memorandum to be valid, you must reference it in your will. It’s also a good idea to specify in the memorandum that this is the list of tangible personal property mentioned in your will.

Next, create a numbered list of gifts, with the beneficiary (the person who will inherit the gift) next to each. Above the list, include a statement such as, “I hereby make the following gifts:”. If you are married, you may want to create a list of gifts you will make if your spouse fails to survive you as well as a separate list if your spouse survives you.

The memorandum doesn’t need to follow a specific format. You can write it yourself by hand or type it up and print it out.

Be sure to sign and date the memorandum at the end of the document.

If you create a free will using Modern Will and your state allows for personal property memorandums, one will be included for you at the end of your will.

Is a personal property memorandum legally valid?

The legal validity of a personal property memorandum depends on your state. Below is a list of states that recognize these memorandums as legally binding. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact an estate planning attorney in your state.

States where a personal property memorandum is legally valid:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States where a personal property memorandum is not legally valid:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia

Last Updated: April 5, 2020

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