Breaking Down The Limitations Of A Will

In the past, we published blogs about what a complete estate plan looks like and how much of your planning doesn’t center around death or your assets. A significant portion of it deals with preparing for the possibility of incapacitation, something anyone at any age faces. To build off those ideas, we want to discuss what a will cannot do for you. The motivation behind this is not to dissuade you from creating a will because it can be viewed as a basic yet essential estate planning document. 

When you read this, don’t consider these limitations as a reason to avoid wills or estate plans. Instead, understand that if a will cannot achieve something, there is another estate planning document that can. Begin to see your estate plan as a customized collection of documents woven together to protect you. Lastly, you also don’t need to know which document to use. You simply need to know what you want it to achieve. Your estate planning attorney will help you if you can identify what your goals are. When you read this blog and learn about where a will “falls short,” make a note to ask your attorney what your other options are. 

The Basic Rundown of a Will

Before we dive into what wills cannot do, now would be an excellent time to identify a common misconception. When you look up what you can include in a will, you can include instructions for how you wish to be laid to rest. Can you include them in a will? You could, but it wouldn’t be an efficient way to convey that information. Unlike what you have seen in movies, a lawyer doesn’t assemble the family around a desk to read the will. Family members may take several days (or weeks) to locate the will, which may happen after the funeral has already been held. 

Additionally, more than 90 million homes in the United States have pets. Our pets are loved, and many consider them part of the family. Suppose you leave behind money so that whoever takes ownership of your pets has the financial means to do so. However, you cannot achieve this through a will because an animal cannot legally inherit something from you. This is typically achieved by creating a pet trust. 

Another thing you will read about wills is that they can help transfer your assets to your designated beneficiaries. Although probate courts will follow your wishes if you leave behind a valid will, there are still certain types of assets you cannot include in one. For example, if you and your spouse purchase a home and each has joint tenancy with rights of survival (JTWROS), then the property defaults to the surviving spouse when you pass away. This can be designated in the deed to the property, which is not automatic. It will also override a will. Because your spouse owns the house when you pass away, there is nothing for you to give away in your will. Retirement accounts and life insurance policies cannot be placed in a will either. You can update your designated beneficiaries with the company that issued the policy. 

Build Your Plan with ElDiery & ElDeiry, P.A. 

In addition to what we have discussed already, it is important to remember that people with special needs children or who wish to avoid probate need more than will. ElDeiry & ElDeiry, P.A. crafts your estate plan with the end in mind. We listen to what you want to achieve and select the documents that accomplish them. There is no cookie-cutter approach, nor is there a one-size-fits-all packet that we can have you sign. Meet with us to discuss your needs and goals by scheduling a consultation.

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