Estate Planning 101: Specific bequest and strategic vagueness

This is part 3 of a series breaking down the process of helping clients set up their Wills by breaking the issues down into smaller, individual topics, enabling the adviser and client to take the necessary steps, and get the plan moving.

In our last topic, the need for a person to communicate with the family to find out what items of personal property they would like to receive was covered. So, now, how do we accomplish that?

The client can greatly reduce the risk of family disputes by making “specific bequests” in their Will. This can be done in a written memorandum that gets attached to the Will, or it can be incorporated directly in the Will. In either event, there is no question who is to get what and the value of each item is not relevant. The valuation of the various gifts may be of interest if the client is trying to keep the gifts approximately equal, of course, but clients also need to consider that “equalizing” things by giving personal property to a person who lives far away and likely has no desire to transport a lawn-mower hundreds of miles is rather pointless!

There is also a time when being somewhat vague can be the better solution. Wills often indicate that the personal property should be divided as the various family members agree.  The family can generally select items they want to receive but the Executor is given the power to sell those items when there are conflicting claims. No one wants to lose an heirloom because more than one person wants it. But the potential remedy of selling it often inspires family members to make deals on how to resolve the dilemma, or to involve other items of property to resolve the dispute.

Our next topic will be a discussion of disposing of “the rest of it all. What is fair versus what is best?"


Our attorneys are always ready, willing, and able to meet and discuss all of those questions, help you articulate your plan and goals, determine the best plan to accomplish them, and then implement it. You will find that, by taking those small bites, the problem that used to lead to procrastination and uncertainty has been addressed and resolved. Learn more about Mansour Gavin's Estate Planning & Probate group.




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