Definition: Writing Disposing of Tangible Personal Property

A writing disposing of tangible personal property is a document drafted by a testator that contains gifts of the testator’s tangible personal property.1 Such a writing, which is a separate document from the will, allows the testator to create or remove gifts of tangible personal property and edit which beneficiaries are to receive such gifts from time to time without having to execute a codicil or a new will every time the gifts are changed. To be valid, the writing disposing of tangible personal property must:

  • be referred to in the will;
  • be either in the testator’s handwriting, or signed by the testator; and
  • describe the items of property and their recipients with reasonable certainty.2

The testator can make subsequent changes to any handwritten or signed writings. However, if there are multiple writings and inconsistencies exist between them, the most recent writing controls.

  1. Note that the term “tangible personal property” has a very specific (and somewhat counterintuitive) legal definition, and a writing disposing of tangible personal property may only be used to make gifts of property that fall within the definition. Be sure to consult the definition before using such a writing to make any gifts.
  2. RCW 11.12.260