News and Commentary

The Benefits of a Personal Property Memorandum By Brendan T. Hayes

Engaging in estate planning is the best way to ensure your assets pass to your intended beneficiaries after death. The more detailed and specific language you use to draft your will, the better the chances that your wishes will be followed. However, consider what would happen if you drew up your will today, listing all your personal possessions and the names of the recipients you wish to receive that property. The odds are that information will look different twenty years or later when you pass away. A better solution would be to create a personal property memorandum, also known as a separate writing, to attach to your will.

A personal property memorandum is a legal document, separate from your will, in which you may list all your personal possessions and the reasons or sentiments behind your decision to leave them to one beneficiary over another. This is intended to avoid fights between beneficiaries over who gets what. Moreover, you can update and change your personal property memorandum as often as you wish throughout your life without requiring the services of an attorney or the legal processes involved with creating a formal codicil or amendment to your will. Instead, you can draft an updated memorandum to attach to your will and dispose of any previous versions. However, you should sign and date each new version of the memorandum and consider getting it notarized to ensure authenticity and avoid any potential legal challenges in the future.

Most U.S. states recognize personal property memorandums and separate writings as legally binding documents when expressly referred to in a decedent’s will, or as a guideline for executors to follow when closing an estate. Unlike your will, which should address your intangible assets, such as real estate, stocks, bonds and financial accounts, the personal memorandum should only include the tangible personal property you own, such as jewelry, furniture, china, art and collectibles. You may also identify less-valuable items, such as a favorite sweater, a pocketknife, cologne or photos with sentimental value. It is essential you give your personal property memorandum to your estate-planning advisors and keep a copy for yourself to review and update as your life circumstances change.

About the Author: Brendan T. Hayes is a financial planner with Provenance Wealth Advisors (PWA), an Independent Registered Investment Advisor affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs and a registered representative with PWA Securities, LLC. He can be reached at the firm’s Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office at (954) 712-8888 or

Provenance Wealth Advisors (PWA), 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., 19th Floor, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954) 712-8888.

 Brendan T. Hayes is a registered representative of and offers securities through PWA Securities, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC.

 This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct.

 Any opinions are those of the advisors of PWA and not necessarily those of PWA Securities, LLC. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of PWAS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Prior to making any investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

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Updated December 15, 2023