Certain household goods and personal items can be emotionally priceless to your descendants even when the financial value of such personal property is next to nothing. One way to avoid conflict over those items after your death is to establish a distribution plan.
Do you remember those countless fishing trips with Grandpa fishing for bullheads? Who gets his fishing poles when Grandpa’s gone? Or who gets the hand-made quilt that graced Mom’s living room sofa all the years the grandchildren were growing up? Who gets Great Aunt Lilly’s handmade kitchen cupboard? Who gets the ancestral photo albums dating back to the early 1800s?
In Minnesota, a distribution list naming the beneficiary of Grandpa’s fishing poles, Mom’s quilts, Aunt Lilly’s cupboard and other items can be a separate writing attached to the current owner’s trust or will documents. A key requirement is that the list be signed and dated, and that the potential existence of such a list be referred to in the will or trust documents. This separate writing must describe the items and the intended beneficiary with reasonable certainty.
Ideally, current owners will have conversations with potential beneficiaries now to work out who gets each coveted item so that there are no hard feelings or surprises after the current owner dies. Minnesota law does not allow money, coin collections or property used in a trade or business to be distributed in this manner, but other items can be.
There can even be multiple distribution lists as long as each is signed and dated. The distribution plan may be altered up until the owner’s death. The most recent list will control the distribution of any items that are bequeathed to different persons on different lists. The distribution lists may be prepared before or after the will (or trust) is drafted.
The owner’s agent – the so-called attorney-in-fact – may also be empowered by the owner’s durable power of attorney document to distribute the owner’s items. This scenario may come into play if the owner becomes incapacitated and needs to downsize to move to an apartment or long-term care facility.
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