A will can be a valuable component of any estate plan since it helps expedite the probate process. By making your last wishes known, you’ll make it easier for the court to make sure your property is divided appropriately. However, there are some items that really don’t belong on your will, either because they’d complicate the disposition of your estate or because it’s simply unnecessary to mention them.
Here, we’ll look at a number of items that you typically should not put on your will.
Anything with a Named Beneficiary
First of all, any asset that has a named beneficiary should not be included in your will. The purpose of the will is to name your heirs, and if someone is already named in the asset’s documents as a beneficiary, including it in the will would be redundant at the very least. At the very most, it could complicate things if it’s not consistent.
Some assets that have named beneficiaries include:
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement plan proceeds
- Pension plans
- Payable on death bank accounts
- Investment accounts
Property Held in Trust
Any property held in a trust doesn’t need to be included in your will. In fact, doing so could complicate things since any asset held in trust is managed and disbursed according to the trust’s rules. In addition, it circumvents one of the purposes of a trust, which is to keep assets out of probate. As such, when drafting up your will, take care not to include any assets currently in a trust.
Jointly Owned Property
Jointly owned property, such as joint-tenancy property, marital property, or jointly owned brokerage accounts, should not be included in your will since these properties automatically pass on to the other owners upon your passing. Including these items in your will only muddles the process, particularly if you state that it should be passed on to someone other than the joint owner.
Arrangements for Persons with Special Needs
If you currently support someone who has special needs, your will is not the place to make arrangements for their continued care. Special needs trusts and other methods are far more effective at making sure their needs are met.
While people often include funeral instructions in their wills, doing so is neither necessary nor effective. Often, your loved ones won’t see what’s in your will until after your funeral, so it’s best to communicate your wishes to them by other means, such as by creating a document to give to your executor/executrix or simply talking to them about what you want.
If you have any part in a business, it’s usually best to leave that to separate succession planning rather than including it in your will. Given that your will must go through probate, it could complicate the process of succession.
Creating the Ideal Will
When drafting your will, it’s important to take stock of all your assets to determine which ones are already accounted for. Items that are not will often find their way into your will, but there may be other ways to handle them as well. An estate planning attorney can help you sift through your properties and draft any needed documents, including your will.