In Florida estate planning, a commonly used and helpful tool is what is known as the “separate writing.” This is a document referred to in a Will or Trust which designates the recipients of certain items of tangible personal property (like jewelry, furniture, sentimental items, etc.). This separate writing is authorized under Section 732.515, Fla. Stat. The separate writing makes it easy for a person to list items to be received and those who will receive them. This writing can make it convenient to prepare and to update a person’s intentions regarding their tangible personal property without a lawyer being involved.
People who have had their estate planning prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney are usually familiar with this practice. In that case, their attorney likely will have told them that such a separate writing can be used to accomplish their goals. The attorney may also have told them that in order to be effective, the separate writing must describe: (1) the items of tangible property being gifted, (2) the person(s) to whom they are given, and the attorney will have told them that the separate writing must also be (3) signed and (4) dated.
What many people are not aware of is the fact that under Florida law, when someone dies, not only must the original of their Will be deposited with the Clerk of the county of residence of the deceased, so too must any separate writing. Section 732.901(5), Fla. Stat., which addresses the deposit of a Will after someone dies, provides that: “For purposes of this section, the term “Will” includes a separate writing as described in s. 732.515.” So, when a person dies, the person having custody of the decedent’s original Will should make sure to deposit the Will—the definition of which includes a separate writing.