If & how to leave things to friends in your will?
January 13, 2007 9:24 AM   Subscribe

I am rewriting my will. I would love some advice on whether and/or how to "leave things" to (close) friends.

Small things such as:
- A rare CD by an artist we both love.
- A particular book I know they've always coveted.
- Some soft toy that has some meaning between us.

Entirely personal / subjective / anecdotal advice is fine or even preferred.
Have you been the recipient of something like this? How did it make you feel? 2 weeks later, 2 months later, 2 years later?
If you haven't, how do you think you would feel? Moved? Sad? Disturbed?
(NB I have family members who'd execute my wishes so I needn't be concerned about the practicalities. but if you think it's still not worth the hassle then I want to hear that too)

PS. This is anonymous because some of my friends read AskMe. Which could be awkward, esp. if they end up not being one of the recipients.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd be a little squigged out, but I'm not the sentimental type. What if you die at age 110? Will anyone be listening to Duran Duran anymore?
BTW, you don't need to put the specifics in your will - lists of small, sentimental items can be incorporated by reference and updated at your whim without the formalities of re-execution. disclaimer: I know this solely from my bar review course and YMMV.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:55 AM on January 13, 2007

One of my closest friends committed suicide last summer. He wrote a "will" in his journal right before leaving 5 different people things like this. I know "things" had never been very important to him - but I have to admit that it made me a little sad that he had taken the time to single these people out and I wasn't one of them. Many of his closest friends and none of his family made the cut.
I wanted something of his - I can't say why. I had made him a hat that he wore all the time and asked his family if I could have it. Now that I have it - I don't really know what to do with it. My husband finally put it away in the closet after I had it out on the counter for a few months.
My vote would be to include these things in your will. I can't imagine anyone not being touched that you thought of them.
posted by Wolfie at 10:28 AM on January 13, 2007

I think it's a good idea, though you'd want to review it regularly (as Saucy Intruder suggests about records becoming irrelevant). It might also help family members after your death - they'd feel they were doing something for you. (Do you know the scene in Little Women where Amy makes a will of this kind leaving her favourite possessions to her family and friends?)
posted by paduasoy at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2007

Take photos and include them, if you want to make sure that whoever executes the will understands what you intend. You may also need to include (and update) contact information for the intended recipients, if they aren't personally known to your likely executors.
posted by zadcat at 11:21 AM on January 13, 2007

I would not put this kind of stuff actually in the will itself (unless it is something of significant value). Instead, just write that you have left a list of personal items and you request that your executor honor your wishes. That way it's not a public document, and nobody else would really ever know about it. Just keep the list with the will in a safe place.

As for whether this is legally effective, I'm not sure because it depends on the state. I'm not your attorney, and this is not legal advice. But it will most likely be honored, and you can make changes whenever you want.
posted by MrZero at 11:23 AM on January 13, 2007

OP here (hoping my Mefi-reading friends won't open the post & find this). Thanks for the replies so far.

Yes I should have clarified that I would not actually put this in the will itself. My mum has said she'd respect my wishes if I just left her a list of things & recipients. If she dies I'll find someone else who would do this. And yes, it would of course be regularly updated. (but hey! Duran Duran are timeless!!!)

Re: what Wolfie said... I wouldn't make this stuff public, so the people that wouldn't get anything wouldn't know that others did (and I'd make sure the ones who do get something will keep their mouths shut).

Good idea about the photos! Thanks!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:18 PM on January 13, 2007

To follow up then, I'll second keeping a list of current contact info for the people. I wouldn't have known about the list but his mom needed to know how to get in contact with some of the people named. And don't count on people keeping their mouths shut - but really - you'll be gone - so I wouldn't worry too much about what ever angst this list causes.
posted by Wolfie at 1:05 PM on January 13, 2007

Why not "give" it to them now? Create a revocable trust, where you transfer legal title of these items to whoever you specify, but retain lifetime possession, enjoyment, and benefit of these items while retaining the right to terminate this trust (and revoke legal title). This way you don't have to worry about conforming to the formalities your state imposes on wills, and at your untimely passing these things will simply pass to their legal owner.

A "trust" may sound fancy, but creating one is fairly simple, doesn't require a lawyer, can be done at no cost, and isn't subjected to the formalities of a will (so you needn't worry about screwing up your entire estate because you didn't sign here, or get X-number of witnesses).

Mind you, IMNAL yet, but did take Trusts & Estates last semester (albiet, pass/fail). So take this advice with a grain of salt.
posted by herc at 2:36 PM on January 13, 2007

BTW, this "transfer" of title isn't public, so you needn't worry about letting the cat out of the bag to your friends who may be jealous.
posted by herc at 2:37 PM on January 13, 2007

Thanks for the advice, but I'm not really worried about the legal issues. As it is, my mum is the sole heir of everything I own, and she will gladly pass things on if I ask her to. The only thing I will add on the actual will is my horse.

I really just wanted to hear about people's opinions on the creepiness vs niceness issue.

I'm not in the US btw. My mum can advise me on legal issues in our country (Luxembourg) as she's a judge and knows our laws. :)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 3:13 PM on January 13, 2007

Clarissa, I have nothing useful to add about the topic at hand other than that I think it's a thoughtful thing to do, and something that is neglected by, I would venture, most people.

However. I'm a little worried about your motivation for updating your will. If it's merely because you want to make sure your possessions end up in the right hands when the inevitable happens, at whatever time in the future, fine; if however, you've been thinking about death more than usual lately this can be a symptom of depression, and I would urge you to seek professional help.

I hope you don't take this the wrong way, and I'm not questioning your motives for this or saying that you are, in fact, suicidal: it's just that depression goes undiagnosed and untreated way too often - I for one sure neglected the symptoms or wrote them off to external forces for a long time before I finally faced the facts. Again, not to lay anything on you and not trying to ride a hobbyhorse of mine; I just wanted to raise this issue, seeing as though apparently nobody has yet.

Should you indeed have frequent thoughts of death or dying, please contact both your doctor and the local mental health services as soon as possible, and don't panic. (Services are good as far as I can tell in both Luxembourg and the UK - full disclosure, I'm a psych major, British national, and lived all my life in Holland. IANAD, though.) And I trust that you don't misinterpret this suggestion: I just want you to have a long and fulfilling life, and that upon your death your possessions pass to those who would most appreciate them.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:55 PM on January 13, 2007

Thanks goodnewsfortheinsane for your kind thoughts.

This was actually one other reason I wanted this question to be anonymous - because I was afraid people would think "what on earth is she thinking about her will for? Suicide alarm!"

However I am fine, I've been meaning to do this for a long time and am in a "let's finally get some things sorted" phase - partly because I currently have the time to do so. I've had a will ever since my dad died and I'm still alive. So don't worry. But thanks!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 7:14 PM on January 13, 2007

Thanks, no problem. I just thougt it would be good (if not for you then at least for readers) to have a "suicide alarm" somewhere in the thread. I guess it had to be me. :)

And consider yourself invited to the yet-unplanned but nonetheless imminent (at some point in the foreseeable future) Benelux meetup! Date, place and dresscode TBD.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:20 PM on January 13, 2007

I think that's touching, as long as these really are close friends and you review the list regularly. I plan on doing the same thing one day.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 8:10 PM on January 13, 2007

Aw thanks (again), but I actually live in Brighton. (I know, that means I should probably go to one of the London meetups, but I'm antisocial and get scared easily)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 9:08 PM on January 13, 2007

In addition to a will for major inheritances (money, heirlooms, etc.), my grandmother keeps a spiral notebook in which she writes down any miscellaneous posessions she thinks other people should have. Usually the betrothing goes something like this:

"Moomaw (that's what we call her), I like that ring."
"Really? You can have it when I die. Here, I'll write it down in my notebook."

I have a very large family, and since I'm second generation my aunts, uncles and father have first dibs on anything small, but if it isn't claimed then it's free game, and goes in the notebook. My husband finds this very weird — it makes him uncomfortable at holidays, but my family has a lot of fun prematurely dividing the smaller possessions.

Recently my Pawpaw (Moomaw's husband) passed away. He'd been sick but his death came quicker than we'd anticipated. I was in Korea, where I've been living for the 18 months, when he died, so I wasn't there for the funeral or the dividing of small things, but I made clear that I wanted any photos, souvenirs, letters, etc., from the time that he served in the Korean War. I see these things as small gifts from him, even if they are not valuable to anyone but me. It also makes me feel linked to my Pawpaw in a way that no one else in may family is.
posted by Brittanie at 12:43 AM on January 14, 2007

« Older Lost Keys Help!   |   Where to buy a new battery for a 2-year-old cell... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.