Most people recognize that the term personal property used in the context of estate planning refers to property outside of real property like real estate. However, this isn’t always true when it comes to the California courts when you are making gifts of your property inside a trust or in a will.
In fact, California courts look specifically for the language used inside these documents, referring to personal belongings and personal property in order to more fully understand the scope intended when you created the document. Since you won’t be around to help explain it to anyone else, it’s important to be as specific and clear as possible when articulating needs for personal property.
A definition of what is intended should always be included in your documents to make it easier for everyone involved. If that is not the case that you’ve gone into detail about what specific personal property is included, the court will consider the language used inside the document and might even admit other evidence into court to determine the overall intent. Personal belongings and personal property have been classified as everything from small items of very little value to bigger issues. The court will also look at whether or not the document was drafted by an attorney, whether any residue clauses were listed in the document and the nature of the gift in question compared with other gifts in the document.
You can do your loved ones a lot of good by articulating which personal property is intended to go to which person by naming and describing it in the will. This is one of the best ways to ensure that the person who you intend to receive the property is actually the one who does receive it.
Our Pasadena estate planning firm is here to help you with your personal estate plan.