Ask the Probate Judge—Tangible Personal Property List
By Merri Rudd, appeared August 9, 2001 Albuquerque Journal, Business Outlook
Reprinted with permission
Question: Re: your Journal Business Outlook article 7/26/2001 about New Mexico's "separate list of tangible personal property" provisions. Is there a form, or does this list need to be prepared by a lawyer? Also, is it attached to the will? Is a "letter of instructions" a separate thing? K.A.
Disputes about inheritances can center on an item of furniture, piece of artwork, or jewelry. New Mexico law allows you to make a written statement or list of tangible personal property (not otherwise specifically disposed of by your will) to give special china, silver, musical instruments, furniture, jewelry and other personal items to certain people.
Wills prepared by New Mexico attorneys usually contain language that refer to this list of tangible personal property, which does not include other types of personal property such as stocks or bank accounts. The language in the will may also say that if no list can be found within 30 days, presume that no list exists.
To be valid, the list must be signed by you but does not need to be notarized. The list must also describe each item and recipient "with reasonable certainty." Keep any list you make with your will, so your beneficiaries do not have to search for it later.
A "letter of instructions" might be construed as a list of tangible personal property if it meets the requirements for the list. To make sure your wishes are honored, however, your will should refer to the list or letter of instructions.
You may not pass money on the list, but may pass tangible personal property, including cars, mobile homes, household items, etc. You may prepare this list before or after making your will. You can change this list every day if you want, without having to change your will and without the help of an attorney. Just be sure to sign and date each new list you make, because your personal representative or the court will look at the most recent list if a dispute arises.
Also, consider who should pay to ship your tangible personal property to the recipients. Should the recipient pay shipping costs or do you want your estate to pay? What if you have a piano going to someone across the country? The cost of shipping may be more than the piano is worth. Thinking about these issues and specifying in your will how shipping costs should be paid may prevent problems after your death.
© 2001, Merri Rudd & Albuquerque Journal, All Rights Reserved