Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"My Stuff" Is Not A Legal Definition

At seminars I routinely joke that one role of being an attorney is to translate law into English.  The converse of that statement is another role is to translate English into law.  I have to take my client's wishes and put it into a legally recognizable will.

Case in point, turning the state "give my stuff to my kids".  What constitutes "my stuff"?  Here is how the conversation should go:

Client: Give my stuff to my kids.
Attorney: Are there any specific items you would like to distribute?  For example, a wedding ring, piano, etc?
Client:  Yes, give my piano to my daughter.
Attorney:   Which piano, can you describe it?  What is your daughter's name.

Image credit:  2012 - taken by author, M. Gustafson Gervasi.  Features the "new" family piano and her daughter.

And so on and so on.  Be specific.  More specific than you ever are (unless you are an attorney).  Give the level of detail you would have to give if you were telling a friend where to retrieve an item in your house.  In fact, that would be a great way to figure out how specific you need to be when making this type of distribution.

Be specific, "my stuff" is not legalise.


CJ said...

What if you want all your stuff to go to one person?

Melinda Gustafson Gervasi said...

My approach would be to say all my tangible personal property to person X. TPP is recognized, stuff not so much.