Will Drafting 101: Avoiding Disputes for Tangible Personal Property
One of my first trips to the courtroom involved a dispute between two brothers over a parent's handwritten disposition of a riding lawnmower. I was 25 then, and I can't remember what type of lawnmower it was, but I am absolutely sure the two children each paid an attorney's bill greater than the value of the used lawnmower over which we were fighting. In the years since, we've employed a small provision in our Wills to avoid such disputes.
(In the Will section involving tangible personal property distribution) it states that: "If by beneficiaries cannot agree as to the distribution of any item(s) of tangible personal property within ninety (90) days of my death, I direct my Executor to sell the disputed item(s) and distribute the proceeds into the residue of my estate."
Now, a clause such as this can have unintended consequences, and should be discussed at length with the testator, but provisions such as this can achieve the desired result of avoiding beneficiary disputes over tangible personal property items, especially if the Will includes a clause permitting the later identification of tangible property to pass to certain beneficiaries, since those handwritten lists can cause various identification problems.
Furthermore, for clients who fear their future beneficiaries will be inclined to fight over tangible property, such clauses can provide a strong impetus to settle disputes prior to such challenges arising.