A More Convenient Death Listing for your Tangible Personal Property

NOTE: The supplemental document I discuss below is good for minor changes for lesser-valued tangible personal property. However, I would not use this separate document for tangible personal property with significant value or family sentiment. Instead, make any designations actually in your Will, or prepare a codicil, with the appropriate notary and two witnesses, etc. I see far too many seriously emotional disputes among family members fueled highly by fights over tangible personal property.

Now directly to the topic of this post. Georgia has a revised statute under O.C.G.A. Section 53-4-5 (effective January 1, 2021) that now allows a more convenient method of preparing a listing of your tangible personal property for your named beneficiaries at the time of your death. This statute applies only to tangible personal property; and not cash or intangible property. Tangible personal property is essentially your personal “stuff” that you can actually touch, such as jewelry, art, musical instruments, furniture, household items, clothing, automobiles, etc. Click here for Section 53-4-5.

Under Section 53-4-5 — after you have already signed your existing Last Will and Testament — you can prepare a separate, supplemental written document that describes the tangible personal property and the beneficiary who is to receive that item at your death. This document must: (i) be signed and dated by you (the testator); (ii) describe the items and the beneficiaries with reasonable certainty; and (iii) the option of using this separate document method must already be referenced in your Will. See the sample Will language below.

No notary or other witnesses are required under Section 53-4-5 for the above separate document. Although, the document I use refers to the option (but not a requirement) of including a notary signature. I recommend adding the notary so as to help reduce disputes over your signature, or that you were unduly influenced to sign the document, etc.

The required cross-reference to this method within your existing Will can be something along the line of the last sentence in the following sample provision:

4.2 This section 4.2 covers who at my death gets my tangible personal property,” defined generally as my personal items that are physically movable, such as automobiles, clothing, jewelry, watches, rings, art, household goods, furniture and furnishings, and other personal-use items generally similar to what I just described above that I own at my death.  I give all my tangible personal property outright to Jane, if she survives me, and if Jane does not survive me, [ . . . ] , or in accordance with any separate designation I make in writing subsequent to my execution of this Will with such separate writing referring specifically to this section 4.2 and to my date of execution of this Will.  

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