However, they give far less thought, if at all, to their personal effects, says Paul Sullivan in the 15 April 2016 edition of The New York Times.

Paul is absolutely correct. Highly paid legal and financial advisors construct most complex estate plans and have little difficulty administrating the deceased’s estate after death. However, when asked how to divide up the deceased’s personal effects, they “pass the buck” to the family to decide or work out.

It is strongly recommended when making Wills, that clients make a special provision for personal effects to be distributed by way of a separate memorandum of wishes that lists the items individually along with the intended beneficiaries of such personal effects.

This memorandum can be changed at any time after the Will is signed without having to change the Will or revisit the lawyer who drafted it. When preparing such a memorandum it is important to try and be fair in the distribution to members of the family. It is also important to take into account that different personal items have different meanings to different beneficiaries.

Such a memorandum can create a process governing the distribution of your personal effects not particularised or you can specify that certain items be given to specified beneficiaries – or a combination of both, especially where only the major personal items are listed and the minor items are not mentioned at all.

In most families it is a mistake to think that you can leave the distribution of your personal effects to your children to decide on who gets what, as this abdication of responsibility seldom works. Usually this method ends up in a “free for all”. In other words who gets into the house first gets the best pickings.

Parents seldom know what items are important to their children and grandchildren. When I advise clients to discuss the distribution of their personal effects with their family, they frequently express surprise to me about the answers they get back and it is often the case that more than one beneficiary wants the same item.

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