Most people are familiar with the purpose of a trust-based estate plan. A person’s assets are placed into the trust for management during that person’s lifetime and distribution upon their death. For most people, the lines of distribution flow directly to their children, or to other beneficiaries that they have selected. The trust-based estate plan serves this purpose perfectly.

Occasionally, however, the distribution needs to be fine-tuned based upon the circumstances. This is where the Tangible Personal Property Memorandum (TPPM) can be used to carry out a person’s desires as to the distribution of specific, low-value assets.

To prevent a trust document from being overwhelmed with language regarding specific gifts, most jurisdictions allow for low-value assets to be distributed via the TPPM. If an asset is high-value (in California that means its value exceeds $5,000), it would be distributed by the provisions of the trust. Otherwise, items can be listed on the TPPM to be distributed to the person specified on the document.

Distributing assets one-by-one would be a burdensome task, which is why the TPPM is typically only used when circumstances dictate. To illustrate, here are a few examples of when the TPPM would help to fine-tune the broad distribution provisions contained in the trust:

  • Randall’s friend always admired his collection of fishing gear, but Randall’s children hate fishing. The TPPM could instruct that the gear be distributed to his friend.
  • Sierra’s sons always seemed indifferent to her jewelry, but a favorite niece always complimented her regarding a specific necklace. The TPPM could instruct that the necklace be distributed to the niece.
  • While most of the grandchildren preferred to watch TV, Ana loved playing catch in the yard with Grandpa’s old mitt and hearing about Grandpa’s glory days in the minor leagues. The TPPM could instruct that the baseball mitt be distributed to Ana.

Although the trust provisions are suited for distribution of high-value items, the TPPM allows a person to fine-tune their wishes depending on the specific low-value asset and the people in their life. Although it is a lesser-known aspect of a trust-based estate plan, the Tangible Personal Property Memorandum can help you to distribute meaningful items to meaningful people when emotion trumps value.