Getting Certain Things To Certain People – Why Does It Matter?

Think for a moment about the most valuable things you own.  If your house was on fire, what would you grab on your way out?  For most of us, our most treasured possessions are pictures of our kids, gifts from our parents, or things that remind us of relationships and meaningful experiences

Often, the things that are most valuable to us and our families are not the expensive ones. 

Of course it’s very important to leave your funds and land to the right heirs. But years down the road, when the money is invested or spent and the property has been sold or built on, those things probably won’t be what make your family members think of you and smile. 

It’ll be the ring that was your 16th birthday present, the handmade wooden trunk you built, the cookbook of favorite recipes written in your handwriting, or the antique china you used to make parties and special occasions feel important. 

These kinds of possessions represent a life and a person more than money ever could. It’s no wonder when you look at certain personal items you also think of loved ones whom you hope will cherish those pieces of you after you’ve gone.

But as you get older, collecting more possessions, gaining more perspective, and living through relationships that change over time, it can be hard to keep track of who you want to receive particular items.  How do you go about getting certain things to certain people in your life, and what do you need to know about it before you plan your estate?

How to Plan Ahead Now So You Can Get Certain Things To Certain People Later

There are three big ways we would advise you to pass your possessions along so that you can be sure they go to the people you want them to:

ONE: Don’t Put Them In The Specifics Of Your Will

During the estate planning process, clients will often come to us with a list of personal items they want designated to go to certain people when they die. But we pretty much always recommend they don’t include those specifics in their Last Will and Testament. Why? Because a will is very difficult to change once it has been written and notarized, and we find that most of our clients want to change who gets certain items on a fairly regular basis. 

Since you can’t handwrite anything into an official will, even small amendments are an expensive hassle and have to be carried out in the same way as the original document, with official notarized witnesses. 

But we recognize how important it is for you to make sure your important items get to the right people. So, instead of putting all this info in a Will, we recommend our clients create a personal property memorandum.  

TWO: Create A Personal Property Memorandum

A personal property memorandum is a document you and your attorney can create to go along with your will.

 It’s simply a list that helps you in getting certain things to certain people. The only stipulations are that it HAS to be used for personal property. Finances and land cannot be added to the list, it has to be referred to in the will, and it has to be signed by you. 

Has your nephew always loved sitting in your recliner when he comes to visit? Do you have old journals you know your little sister would love to read? Would your best friend want the knick-knacks you’ve collected from your weekend excursions through the years? 

Whether big or seemingly insignificant, you can add any possessions to the list that you want.  And it’s got three great perks that a will can’t provide for you anyway:

  • It can be mandatory or not:

You can dictate that the executor of your estate either follow your personal property memorandum to the letter, or that they just try to follow it the best they can, using their own discretion. If your executor is someone you trust, you might not need to hold them to this with the law’s authority. And if they are close to you and your heirs, they’ll be able to use wisdom in distributing your personal property (for example, not giving your dog to a family member that’s planning to move into a space adverse to animals, or something along those lines.)

  • It can be altered at any time:

If a relationship changes, one of your heirs dies, or you have a light bulb moment and remember something really important that you haven’t designated yet, you can change your personal property memorandum at any time, quickly and conveniently by simply writing and signing and a new one.  No witnesses, notaries or other formalities are required! 

  • It can be a general guide for you right now:

Use your personal property memorandum as a sort of guide for right now. You’ll probably add to it as the years pass by, and maybe change some things as well. So don’t think of it as some huge decision that you need to have all the details of worked out immediately. It also might give you some perspective on what you want to save to be passed on after your death, and what you’d rather give away while you’re still living. 

THREE: Give Things Away While You’re Still Living 

The third way to guarantee getting certain things to certain people is pretty obvious – give things away now, before you die. As you get older, you might naturally find yourself beginning to gift household items to people you love anyway. 

And we generally recommend it – decluttering and giving things you don’t need anymore to others who will use them is always helpful; it relieves a bit of what your executor will have to deal with after you pass. But we also advise you to think about your particularly special items – are there things you’re emotionally able to part with now so that you can enjoy watching your loved ones receive them? That’s half the joy of giving a gift, isn’t it?

You’ll have to evaluate for yourself when you are ready to give things away. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but if you’re considering things ahead of time, you might be able to make things easier and more meaningful for your family. 


You’re right to want to pass on possessions that are dear to your heart, that your family associates with you, and that represent pieces of the person you are. Let us help you start thinking now about how to get meaningful things to the people who will appreciate them most. Click here to request your free consultation.