What happens to the stuff in my house when I die?

There is a statute in Maine that allows you to tell people who you want to get your "tangible personal property" (that’s a fancy word for "stuff") with a simple list in writing.  Tangible personal property includes furniture, jewelry, dishware, art, even cars and pets.  The general rule of thumb is that if you can touch it, it’s tangible.  Not included are cash, stocks, bank accounts, life insurance, real estate, etc.  This list does not have to be witnessed or notarized or carry any of the formalities of a will, yet your Personal Representative/Family must legally respect those wishes as if it did.  The advantage is you can give a grandchild or neighbor something special to remember you by.  If you get mad at them or lose touch you can change the list at any time without having to re-do your will or see a lawyer.  These lists can be invaluable road maps for your loved ones when you die.  They can also prevent fights over hot-point items like wedding rings or family heirlooms.  I recommend that you date and sign your list, especially if you use your computer to generate it.  Keep the list where it can be easily found.  You can have just a few items or you can map out the distribution of your whole house, that’s totally up to you. 

-Kathryn Bedell, Esq.


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