Take a moment right now to stop and think about a few of your fondest childhood memories. Is there a physical item – a game, a picture, a tool or some other “thing” – connected to that memory? For me, I think of my grandma’s candy jar. My cousins and I would often try to sneak a hard butterscotch candy without her hearing – it rarely worked! I smile as I look at that candy jar now sitting on my kitchen counter, and appreciate that my hearing is just as sharp as hers was when my own kids try to sneak a piece. That candy jar is so much more than a candy jar; it is a remembrance of the countless afternoons I spent in her kitchen and all the memories we shared together.
Do you have those items around you to keep those wonderful memories alive and near to you? Are you creating new special memories with someone that may be triggered by a special memento? Think of the lasting gift you could give someone by arranging to have those little “love reminders” passed on to those to whom it would mean the most. It could be a hunting rifle, a thimble, an antique car or tractor, a badge, a trophy…who knows. The monetary value may not be great, but the meaning and memories are priceless.
I encourage you to put into writing to whom you would like to designate these precious, sentimental items of tangible, personal property. This simple, small action can have such a lasting and memorable effect on those you love. Not only are you demonstrating the significance of your relationship to them, but seeing the handwriting of a loved one can have such an impact after they have passed away. Not to mention, a clear and simple list provides clarity for the ones left to distribute your assets. Some of the biggest family arguments I have seen are not over farmland or businesses; they are over sugar bowls, shotguns, or rocking chairs (when allocations haven’t been made).
To create this clarity on who receives what item, you first need to create a form, spreadsheet or letter of instruction that clearly describes the item to be given, clearly states to whom the item is to be given, and is signed and dated. Some individuals even take photos of unique items and catalog them into a distribution list to provide clarity to their loved ones after their passing. The existence of this list needs to be specifically referenced in your trust or will; consult with a qualified estate planning attorney to ensure that the proper language is included with your estate planning document to incorporate the list that is outside of your will or trust into your estate plan by reference. You can add to or change this list as you desire, so long as you sign and date any changes that are made. This listing should be kept with your other original estate planning documents, which should be somewhere that can be easily located. Many times our clients send us a copy so the list is stored in another safe place.
The gifts listed on your tangible personal property list may be the most touching and memorable gifts you leave for your loved ones. In such a big way, this small gesture demonstrates how much the memories and their relationship meant to you. There is no greater gift you can give than to let someone know they mattered.