If You Want To Make Sure That Your Tangible Items Go Where You Want Them To Go, Make A Will, Then Make A List

Here’s a question I am frequently asked: how do I take care of distributing my ____________ (fill in the blank: jewelry, or Hummel collection, or gun collection, or other collection of tangible items) among my relatives?

The answer I give is this: make a tangible personal property list. A tangible personal property list is a list you can make to go with your will. Arizona law says that a will may refer to a written statement to dispose of tangible personal property other than money. That’s the tangible personal property list.

NB Hannah

Nathan B. Hannah, attorney

The list can be prepared before or after your will is signed, and can be either handwritten or typed. You have to sign the list if it’s not handwritten (I recommend signing it anyway), and there must be a reference to it in your will. It must describe the items and the beneficiaries “with reasonable certainty.” I also recommend that the list make a specific reference to your will, so that it can be identified as the list provided for in the will.

What sorts of items can be on a tangible personal property list? Here’s the explanation I use: anything you can hold in your hands, from a diamond to a grand piano, except money, is tangible personal property and can therefore be included on your list.

The list doesn’t have to be exhaustive. It can identify items individually or by category (for example, “my Hummel figurine collection”) as long as the items are adequately identified. Just remember that any items not identified either individually or by category on the list will be included with the “residue” (i.e., the rest) of your estate, and won’t be affected by the list.

You can include vehicles on your tangible personal property list. As I have explained in previous Reports, however, you also have the option of using the beneficiary designation form for vehicle titles (at least, you have that option if your vehicle has an Arizona title; I don’t know if other states have something similar).

A primary benefit of using a separate list for disposition of tangible personal property, instead of itemizing gifts of tangible personal property items in your will, is that you can change the list without having to make a new will. As I always tell people after they have signed their wills, you can change the will as long as you are alive and competent, but changing it requires executing another document with the same formality as the original, meaning with witnesses and a notary. With the tangible personal property list, you can just write a new one, without notary or witnesses or anything. Make sure you tear up the old one, and put the new one with your will.

So when you’re making a will, if you have tangible items that you want particular people to have, make sure that your will includes a provision for a tangible personal property list, write the list, and keep the list with your will.

Nathan B. Hannah is a Shareholder in the Tucson office, and practices in the areas of estate planning and administration, real estate, and commercial transactions.  He is also a noted blogger, and you can find more of his articles on his private blog,

Contact Attorney Hannah:  or  520/ 322-5000

This communication is designed to bring legal developments of interest to the attention of our clients and others. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific legal advice in a particular matter. For further information on any of the subjects discussed, or for legal advice in connection with any particular matter, please contact us.