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ESTATE PLANNING: Leaving a personal property distribution letter

ESTATE PLANNING: Leaving a personal property distribution letter

Q: I've read I can leave a letter instructing my personal representative on how to distribute my personal property. How would I do this and is there a special form I should use?

A: Leaving a personal property distribution letter is one of my favorite estate planning techniques. To give credit where credit is due, I stole the idea from my friend and more learned counsel, Jack O'Drobinak

What I do is add language to my wills and trusts indicating personal property is to be distributed pursuant to a personal property distribution letter left with the will. By using a distribution letter, you can update who gets your stuff without having to amend the will.

I also add language that if the will's maker fails to leave such a letter, the property is to be distributed in an alternative fashion. Usually it's something like as the beneficiaries shall agree or if they can't agree, the personal representative is to sell the property and split the cash.

In your case, you may have to amend your will to include a provision to use a distribution letter. The form you use is less important than making sure your estate plan allows for one.

Q: Does a will need to be notarized?

A: Nope, a notary's signature is not required to execute a valid will. It isn't going to invalidate an otherwise validly executed will, but it won't help.

In Indiana, a will should be signed by the maker and witnessed by two disinterested people. One of those individuals can be a notary but it isn't required.

So no matter what the form you bought at the office supply store says, you do not need to obtain a notary's signature to have a valid will. Stick with the disinterested witnesses and you'll be good to go.

Thanks for the questions.

Opinions are solely the writer's. Christopher W. Yugo is an attorney in Crown Point Indiana. Address questions to Chris in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321 or to Chris' information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant, or estate-planning specialist.


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