Your Last Will and Testament allows you to make both general and specific gifts. For example, you can simply leave all your property, both real and personal, to one or more beneficiaries in your Will, or you can choose to include specific bequests such as leaving a family heirloom to a child. Often, the division of personal property becomes more complicated than the gifting of real property, bank accounts, and investment funds. When this is the case, people often choose to include a personal property memorandum in their estate plan.
As the name implies, a personal property memorandum, or PPM, is a list of your personal property along with instructions for who shall inherit each item. Not only does this typically keep your list of personal items out of the official probate process if that is important to you, but it also allows you to make changes if necessary without the need to go through the formal requirements of executing a new Will.
Keep in mind that not all states consider a PPM to be legally binding; however, in the states that do, you are usually required to reference the PPM in your Will for it to be considered a legal component of your estate plan. If created and referenced properly, it then becomes, in essence, an extension of your Will. You can use the PPM to gift things like family heirlooms or an art collection – things that you wish to go to specific people because they have sentimental or actual value. The beauty of a PPM is that if you need to add an item or change a gift you can simply change the PPM instead of re-executing your entire Will.