Can I leave personal items to specific people in my Will?
24 October 2013 by Anastasia Packman
One matter which is often given less importance when discussing Wills is that of giving specific items to specific people. It is, however, often one of the most important practical decisions that Will Makers should consider.
Over a lifetime it is likely that a Will Maker has accumulated treasured personal items which may be financially valuable but more significantly may be sentimentally valuable or both such as jewellery. It is advisable for a Will Maker to make decisions as to who is to receive what item. The Will Maker may know that a particular person would like to receive a particular item, or perhaps that more than one person would like the same item. In the often sensitive atmosphere after a death it is often better for the Will Maker to decide on a the destination of an item rather than beneficiaries having to decide between themselves. It is possible for Will Makers to allow beneficiaries to select items either together or in turns (for example until the first turn being allocated by the toss of a coin or in order of age seniority) but in practical terms an alternate selection may only be achieved by beneficiaries being present in a deceased’s property at the same time and this can also cause difficulties between them.
Although many Will Makers refer to ‘house contents’ the legal definition of specific items was made nearly 90 years ago and even includes “carriages” and “stable furniture” but is still used in many professionally drafted Wills. For individual items a professional description is not often needed although it should be possible to identify the item – a description of a dolphin – ornament would not be advisable if the Will Maker owned separate small and medium dolphin ornaments! In the same vein, the gift of a golf chain would not be advisable if the Will Maker had several gold chains.
In conclusion a Will Maker should think before making the Will about which specific items he wishes to treat separately. It is usually best to state clearly to whom each of those specific items is to be given.