What NOT to Include in Your Will

There have been some crazy wills and unusual bequests from eccentric folks over the years.

Take William Shakespeare. Widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist, he famously bequeathed his “second-best bed” to his wife and the remainder of his assets (and presumably his “best bed”) to his daughter. Bet that made for interesting conversations at Christmas.

Remember Leona Helmsley? Her nine-year-old Maltese, Trouble, received $12 million in her will, with her grandchildren either cut out or ordered to visit their father’s grave annually in order to inherit their share. Trouble’s inheritance was later cut to JUST $2 million by a judge, although the dog still needed to go into hiding amid death and kidnap threats.

Jokes aside, there are certain things that do NOT belong in your will:

  • Funeral Plans. Your body is not under your estate’s control, and even if it were, chances are your will won’t be read prior to your funeral. Be sure to discuss funeral plans with your executor and arrange for funeral expenses to be paid out of your estate. For more information on including your wishes regarding your funeral in your estate plan, check out my post, Discussing the “D” Word-Including Funeral Plans in Your Estate Plan.
  • Illegal Bequests. Want your name spray painted on the highway overpass you drove under every day on your way to work? Don’t make it a condition of your artist nephew’s receipt of his inheritance. You can not make a gift contingent on an illegal act.
  • Digital Assets. While you may have amassed a sizable amount of digital assets (e.g., iTunes purchases, eBooks, photographs, and other items in cloud-based online accounts), you may not be able to dispose of them in your will. For more information on estate planning for digital assets, check out my post, “I leave all of my money to the dog, and to my son, I leave 1,034 photos of the dog…”-Estate Planning for Digital Assets.
  • Life Insurance and Retirement Accounts. Life insurance and retirement accounts require you to name a beneficiary. When you die, these assets will transfer to the named beneficiary, regardless of what your will says. For more information on naming a beneficiary for life insurance and retirement accounts, check out my post, Naming a Beneficiary for Your Life Insurance Policy.
  • Jointly Held Property. With this type of property, when you die, your share automatically passes to the surviving tenant (and the surviving tenant will own the property in full). Leaving your interest to someone other than the other joint tenant is meaningless.

What has been the hardest part for you in estate planning? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Disclaimer: This website is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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