Distribution of personal belongings after death
BOZEMAN — After a person’s death, the matter of dividing up their personal belongings can become a complicated matter. According to Montana State University Extension, the Montana Uniform Probate Code allows a person to create a separate list in his or her will that specifies the distribution of personal belongings such as jewelry, china, firearms, photos and more.
“The list cannot include cash, stocks and bonds, mutual funds, other intangible personal property, or real estate, because those items have titles,” said Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension family economics specialist. “The list is not a part of the will but separate from it. The list must identify both items and the persons to receive them with reasonable certainty.”
The list may be prepared before or after writing a will. It can be handwritten or typed and must be signed and dated. As new possessions are acquired, individuals can update the list, which should be kept with the will so the personal representative can distribute items to intended recipients.
Pondera County Extension agent Wendy Wedum suggested individuals who are ready to part with some items share them with family members before death. She also suggests talking to relatives and find out which items hold special memories for them.
“Transferring personal property can be a time to celebrate your life, share memories and stories, and continue traditions and family history,” Wedum said. “Sharing stories about special objects helps your family members understand their past, discover another aspect of their family and appreciate the real accomplishments of their ancestors.”
Wedum and Goetting added that individuals should keep in mind the sentimental value of belongings may be different depending on the recipient’s age. For instance, a grandfather’s journal may not appeal to his young grandchild but might be treasured by his daughter or granddaughter in her 40s.
For more information about the separate listing of tangible personal property, request the MSU Extension MontGuide “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate” at https://store.msuextension.org/publications/FamilyFinancialManagement/MT199701HR.pdf. For those who do not have computer access, copies are available from county Extension or reservation offices.
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