Disposing Of Tangible Personal Property At Death

Washington law allows a person to dispose of certain kinds of tangible personal property at their death in a writing separate from their last will and testament.  For purposes of the law, “tangible personal property” is defined as “articles of personal or household use or ornament,” such as furniture, furnishings, cars, boats, jewelry, art, and precious metals.  It can also include articles held for investment purposes.  It does not include property used primarily in trade or business; mobile homes; real estate; or intangible property such as money that is normal currency, bank accounts or other monetary deposits, securities, or documents of title.  For the writing to be effective, an unrevoked will must refer to the writing, the writing must be either in the handwriting of the maker of the will or signed by that person, and it must describe the items and the recipients with “reasonable certainty.”

The writing does not need to take a particular form, although often it is in the form of a list.  It may be written or signed either before or after the will is signed.  Unlike a will, which requires two witnesses when the maker of the will signs it, the writing does not need to be witnessed.  Also unlike a will, handwritten or signed changes can be made to the writing after it is created (it is never a good idea to write on an original will after it has been signed).  This can provide flexibility in estate planning.

If you need assistance with your estate planning, contact Per E. Oscarsson or one of the other attorneys in Beresford Booth’s Estate Planning and Probate Group

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