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What Should Be Included In Your Will?


What do an old stone bridge that crosses the Delaware River, a 1930’s vintage Duesenberg, a collection of paintings done by someone’s father, and a cat named Monster that comes with a $50,000 allotment for his care all have in common? They are just a few of the more unusual things bequeathed under Wills that were drafted by our Hoffman & Associates attorneys over the years.

We get it – when we ponder our passing, it’s tempting to think fondly about the precious items we possess and to want to ensure that when we’re gone our most meaningful treasures go to those we’ve loved, those in need, those with whom we’ve shared interests or friendship, or those who’ve shared their kindness and care.

And how better to accomplish that than by detailing all of this in your Will? Maybe not. Here are just a few reasons why there may be a better tool to use to accomplish your goals for your personal property:

  • Wills, and probating them after a person’s passing, are governed by state statutes and the nominated personal representative (Executor), heirs, and beneficiaries must meet all the corresponding probate court’s requirements in order to carry out the decedent’s Will.
  • Wills are more rigid and binding, and not particularly well adapted to communicating instructions or personal desires to family members about what you want done with things like vehicles, art, jewelry, or pets.
  • The personal representative (Executor), who is appointed to carry out the terms of the Will, cannot legally opt to distribute that which is given under a Will in any other manner, without significant work to make that happen – even in cases where, if you were alive, you’d now agree that an alternative distribution makes better sense.
  • Things change with time, and beneficiaries may have lots of descendants, get divorced, move to other countries, have loads of debt, pass away, be challenging to find, or even go missing. For reasons too numerous to discuss here, these types of events can significantly complicate the distribution of items that pass under a Will. Imagine trying to divide ownership of a bridge between a growing number of beneficiaries!
  • Now imagine that the person who loved your pet when you wrote your Will ten years ago no longer has the capacity to care for it, and there are no other parties named or willing to take your pet once you’ve passed away. We have seen cases where the named beneficiary of a pet takes ownership of it, along with the money allotted for its care, only to have the pet euthanized soon after, rightly or wrongly.

An alternative option for distributing your personal property is to utilize what we refer to as a Love Letter. This is an informal separate document, signed and dated, which you would write in conjunction with your estate planning as a supplement to your Will. This type of informal letter does not modify or amend any of the provisions of your Will, whether it was signed prior or subsequent to the date of your letter.

Love Letters can also be a convenient forum to share sentiments, advice, personal anecdotes or other messages that can be much more meaningful to your loved ones than an antiseptic Will document that few will ever read.

In fact, all of our Wills include a reference to this type of letter, referred to as a personal property memorandum, which gives you the opportunity to create a list of your items of personal property and to whom you wish they be passed. As the important people and things in your life change, you can update this list anytime you wish, without the need to revise your Will.

Transferring personal property via a Love Letter is just one of the many things you can accomplish with this flexible and helpful tool. In the long run, it will prove a useful guide to your loved ones and assist them with ensuring your wishes are carried out and your estate administration goes as seamlessly as possible. Call Hoffman and Associates at 404-255-7400 to find out more.



  • Juli Findling

    Juli joined Hoffman & Associates in June 2018 with eight years of Paralegal experience in the area of civil litigation with Robertson, Bodoh & Nasrallah, LLP. Prior to that, she dedicated five years to working as an Associate Care Specialist with Innovative Outsourcing, Inc. after working as a Systems Analyst in the corporate arena, including General Motors, Inc.’s headquarters in Warren, MI, and American Software, Inc. in Atlanta, GA.

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