When most Houston residents think about estate planning, they think about things like cars, homes, and bank accounts. While these are important assets to consider as part of your Texas estate, you also need to consider other assets that may not be titled in your name, such as personal property like jewelry, art, decorations, and other keepsakes.
In my experience as a Houston estate planning attorney, the disposition of personal property with great sentimental value often causes more strife within a family than larger assets that are worth more money. Siblings often fight over who is supposed to get mom’s wedding ring or the family photo album, which can cause a great deal of tension between family members during an already difficult time. This is one of those areas where you really need to begin the discussion before you die. By having an open dialog with your family about who should get what items of personal property, you can help ensure that any conflict gets worked out in advance, and you can play an active role in the conflict resolution process. This should help give you some peace of mind knowing that you have worked out this often sensitive issue in advance.
Since most Houston residents own many pieces of personal property, putting a specific bequest (gift) of each piece of property in a last will and testament is usually not practical, especially since what you own is likely to change before you die. This is why Texas law allows you make a memorandum that lists certain personal property and who will receive that property. You can then keep this memorandum with your Texas last will and testament and your executor (the person who is responsible for administering your estate) will be aware of your wishes. You can update the memorandum as you dispose of or acquire new personal property, or if you decide to change the beneficiaries of some of the property. Your Houston estate planning attorney can help you create the memorandum. You should be aware, however, that this method will NOT work with items such as life insurance policies or retirement plan benefits, which pass by beneficiary designation.
With a little advanced planning and careful consideration, you can help make certain that the items of personal property in your estate will pass to the intended beneficiaries with as little drama as possible.