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The Basics of a Memorandum

Setting up you Last Will and Testament takes a lot of thought and planning. The last thing you want to do is have to make a modification to you Will if you were to change your mind as to who gets Aunt Margaret’s China.

What is a Memorandum?

There is a separate document you can put together in addition to your Will, called a memorandum. In this document, you are able to make a list of items and the people you want to inherit them. BEWARE! This document does not have ANY legal effect. This document merely states your wishes to the executor. The executor is not obligated in any way to fulfill your wishes as reflected in the memorandum.

What can I leave in my memorandum?

You are able to use a memorandum for tangible personal property, for example:

  • Furniture
  • Art work, jewelry & collectables
  • Vehicles (in some states)
  • Household items such as china and silver

It is never advisable to include intangible property, such as:

  • Real estate
  • Bank accounts
  • Stocks and bonds

Can I write more than one memorandum?

It’s important to speak with you estate planning attorney to ensure that your Will provides that you have the option to write a memorandum. If your Will states that you have the option to have a memorandum, you are able to write one at any time. Also, if you decide to make changes to the memorandum, you are able to throw the old one out and write a new one. It is important to make sure that your most recent memorandum is signed, dated and kept with your Will. The most recent memorandum will be used by your executor.

Again, be aware that a memorandum, unlike a Last Will and Testament, has no legal standing. Therefore, the family member who was listed to get your diamond ring in your memorandum cannot do anything legally if they do not receive the item upon your death.  It is simply a list to communicate your wishes to your executor. For that reason, it’s very important to choose an executor who you trust.

How Do I Write a Memorandum?

For an example of a memorandum please see our article, How to Write a Memorandum.