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What Does Your “Property” Mean?

By Katherine Crowell

April 23, 2020


It may seem obvious, but you’ll be much more comfortable with your attorney if you understand what he or she is saying.

As you speak with your lawyer about your estate plan, you’ll likely hear some terms that you wouldn’t ordinarily hear in your day-to-day life. You may also hear some words that may have a different meaning in the estate planning world.

What is property in estate planning?

One of those words is “property.” In the estate planning context, property means all of your assets, not just real estate. Property includes real property, which is real estate, and personal property, which is everything else.

Personal property is further broken down into tangible personal property and intangible personal property. Tangible personal property is personal property that you can touch, such as books, jewelry, clothing, furniture and so on. Intangible personal property is personal property that has no physical form, such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, insurance, retirement accounts, annuities, business interests and the like.

  • Property = Real Property + Tangible Personal Property

  • Real Property = Real Estate

  • Personal Property = Tangible Personal Property + Intangible Personal Property

  • Tangible Personal Property = Property You Can Touch

  • Intangible Personal Property = Property That Has no Physical Form

Why is it important to know what property means in estate planning?

Because your Will might say “I give and bequeath all of my tangible personal property to Phoebe.” Now you’ll know Phoebe will inherit your silver candlesticks, but not your house or your bank accounts.

If your Will says “I give and devise all my real property to John,” you’ll know John will inherit your real estate, but not all your assets.


Excerpt from the book Estate Planning for the Savvy Client: What You Need to Know Before You Meet With Your Lawyer by Mary L. Barrow, Esq.

Copyright ©2020, 2017 by Mary L. Barrow

THIS EXCERPT IS A BRIEF SUMMARY FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE USED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE ADVICE OF COMPETENT LEGAL COUNSEL FROM AN ATTORNEY ADMITTED OR AUTHORIZED TO PRACTICE LAW IN YOUR JURISDICTION. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR ATTORNEY BEFORE IMPLEMENTING OR CHANGING ANY ESTATE PLANNING STRATEGY.