In setting up your estate plan, there are two main ways to leave items of tangible personal property ("TPP"), such as jewelry or sentimental items, to a beneficiary. You can either make a "specific devise" in your Will or you can include a provision in your Will which states that if you leave a list of items of TPP and who is to receive each item, then that list will be honored. When using the second method, the statement or list is sometimes described by estate planners as a "separate writing." This blog entry is intended to discuss the separate writing method.
Section 732.515, Fla. Stat. provides that a written statement or list referred to in the decedent's Will shall dispose of items of TPP--so long as those items are not otherwise specifically disposed of by the Will. The list applies only to TPP, so real estate and financial assets cannot included. The list also cannot be used to distribute property used in a business or trade.
To be admissible as evidence of the intended disposition, the writing must be signed by the testator and must describe the items and the intended recipients with reasonable certainty. The writing may be prepared before or after the execution of the Will and it may be altered by the testator after its preparation. It may be a writing that has no significance apart from its effect upon the dispositions made by the Will. If more than one otherwise effective writing exists, then, to the extent of any conflict among the writings, the provisions of the most recent writing revoke the inconsistent provisions of each prior writing. For this reason, the list should be dated when signed by the testator.
When meeting with your estate planning attorney, you should discuss including a separate writing provision in your Will.