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What assets and provisions should not go into a will?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | Wills

A well-composed last will and testament directs your property to your family or other heirs after your death. However, before you list every account and physical property that you own in your will, consider that not everything actually belongs in a will.

Composing instructions for certain assets could foster confusion, perhaps even legal challenges. This is because many assets that do not go in a will already have mechanisms to convey them to beneficiaries outside of probate.

Property you share with others

Some assets are jointly-owned properties, meaning you are a joint owner with someone else. This can apply to real estate, vehicles and investments. After you die, the surviving owner will assume full ownership. This will trump any provision you put in a will to direct the property to someone else.

Assets with beneficiary designations

With some assets, you assign someone as a beneficiary, meaning that person will receive the property or payout after your death. This is common with life insurance policies and retirement accounts.

Additionally, it is possible to assign a pay-on-death provision for a bank account, a brokerage or an investment account. These designations make using a will unnecessary, and any provision you make in a will to name another beneficiary is likely to go ignored.

Similarly, designating property you have placed in a trust in your will is also likely to go nowhere. This is because the trust already has control over that property, so you would have to alter your trust terms if you want to make a beneficiary change.

Funeral provisions

It may seem logical to put your funeral arrangements in your will, but this could backfire. The problem is that in many instances, will readings happen after the funeral has concluded. So your will may not even go into effect until after your burial. A more effective method is to use a separate letter of instruction and arrange for a plot and payment for it ahead of time.

Though wills make a difference in estate planning, they are not always the only appropriate tool to use. Balancing a will with other estate planning methods can make your wishes a reality.