A will is a vital estate planning document, and allows you to distribute your assets and property according to your wishes. However, there are several items that should NOT be included in a will:
Property held in a living trust or joint tenancy – property deeded to a living trust cannot be willed to someone else, and a will cannot change the right of survivorship in joint tenancy, which passes to the joint tenant by law.
Accounts with designated beneficiaries – financial accounts and life insurance proceeds go to beneficiaries who are designated by you via a designated beneficiary form, and cannot be given to someone else through a will.
Contingency gifts – leaving assets that are contingent on the beneficiary performing a duty or act (like marrying or attending college) is not always legal. Generally speaking, you cannot “manage from the grave” by making an inheritance contingent on someone getting married, changing their religion, etc.
Provisions for those with special needs – this should be done via a special needs trust.
Provisions for pets – pets do not have the legal ability to own property, so consider establishing a pet trust to care for your pet(s).
Funeral instructions – since a will may not be read until after the funeral, leave instructions for your funeral arrangements in a letter of instruction or discuss your wishes with loved ones.
If you’d like to learn more about establishing your personal estate plan, call our office today at (919) 256-3643 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk with Claudia Bingham, your Personal Family Lawyer®. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session™, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.