If you’re like most people, you’re making a will primarily because you want certain pieces of property to go to specific people. To make sure the right property gets to the right beneficiaries, make sure you use good descriptions in your will. Here’s how.
When making gifts of specific property, describe the property with enough detail so that your executor will be able to identify and find the property when the time comes. You don’t need to use any fancy language, just a clear, concise description.
Here are some simple examples:
If an item is very valuable or could be easily confused with other property, make sure you include identifying characteristics, such as location, serial number, color or some other unique feature.
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You normally need not get very specific, unless an object is particularly valuable. It is enough to list the location of the property: “all household furnishings and possessions in the apartment at 55 Drury Lane.”
You can simply provide the street address or, for unimproved property, the name by which it is commonly known. For example:
Unless there is no other way to clearly describe it, you do not need to provide the legal description from the deed.
List financial accounts by their account numbers. Also, include the name and location of the
organization holding the property. For example:
As with household goods, it is usually adequate to briefly describe personal items and group them, unless they have significant monetary or sentimental value. For example, items of extremely valuable jewelry should normally be listed and identified separately, while a drawer full of costume jewelry and baubles could be grouped.
If you leave all of your property to one person or a group of people, you don’t need to describe each individual piece of property. After your death, your executor will inventory all of your property and will it will all pass to that person or group. This is true even if you leave a few specific items as well. For example, if you leave your golf clubs to your nephew, but all of your other property to your spouse, you would want to describe the golf clubs well enough to be clear, but you wouldn’t need to describe the rest of your property that would go to your spouse.
Don’t place conditions on any of your bequests; it risks making a confusing and even unenforceable will. Here are some examples of what not to do:
If you are determined to place conditions on beneficiaries or property, consult a lawyer who is experienced in drafting bequests that will adequately address these potentially complex arrangements.
To find a lawyer, try searching Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.
Before describing the property in a will, take a moment to reflect on what property you are legally able to pass in your will. If you have already arranged to leave property outside your will by using legal devices, such as life insurance, pay-on-death bank accounts or living trusts, you usually should not include that property in a specific bequest.
Read more about Making a Will: What Property to Include.
Make a will quickly and easily with WillMaker & Trust. In addition to a will, WillMaker provides several other key estate planning forms, including a living trust, health care directive, and a durable power of attorney for finances.