Creating a last will and testament is one of the most responsible and informed decisions you can make. It tells your family and loved ones exactly what your last wishes are regarding your assets and property. However, there are many things we recommend that you should not include in your will. We’ve compiled a list of what not to put in a will.
Be cautious with the conditions on gifts
Conditions that include marriage, separation, divorce, or the change of religious beliefs cannot be provisions in a last will and testament. Therefore, a court will not enforce them. You can put certain other types of conditions on gifts left in your will. Usually, these types of conditions are to encourage someone to do or not do something. As an example, when creating a will, you could say, “to Beth, if and when she graduates from college…” You could also say something similar to, “to John, so long as he uses the property as a mechanic shop…” Please keep in mind that putting conditions on gifts can complicate matters. Think about who will actually enforce these conditions, for how long, and does the enforcer get anything like an executor’s fee?
Exclude funeral arrangements when considering what not to put in a will
More often than not, the settling of the estate and the probate proceedings do not occur until after the funeral. Your Will needs to go through Probate before it can be released to your family and loved ones, and before your Estate can begin to be settled. Funeral arrangements are one of the first things that will happen after you die. Because of this, if you leave your funeral wishes in your Will, it’s unlikely your loved ones will get to see them in time. Instead, make a funeral plan with your probate lawyer that can be given to them immediately after you pass. This is important when thinking about what not to put in a will.
Avoid leaving gifts or money for illegal purposes when considering what not to put in a will
Although extremely uncommon, some people will try and sneak in some sort of illegal condition or purpose for the gift. This would disallow your will to be a legal will. For example, you wouldn’t be able to include, “to Anne, so long as she uses the money to pay for a hit man,” or “To Joe, so long as he applies graffiti on the White House.”
Do not arrange care for a special needs person when making a will
Although it is very possible to arrange such special needs for a disabled person, a will is not the place in which to do it. In fact, there are certain types of trusts, such as a special needs trust, that specifically address the management of the specific special needs of a disabled person. Please think of this when thinking of what not to put in a will. If you need help with a special needs trust, we can help.
Avoid leaving gifts to pets when considering what not to put in a will
You might love your pet more than anyone else in the world. Unfortunately, pets do not have the capacity to own property, so think twice about leaving Spot the vacation home. Instead, consider leaving the pet with someone you love and trust to look after them, and possibly put some money aside to pay for the pet’s care or donate to animal charities.
Get Legal Help with Making Your Will
Figuring out the right amount of information to put into your last will and testament can be confusing. Executing it correctly the first time and with the least amount of hassle should be your goal. The best way to ensure that you’re setting up your will correctly is to contact us as your local estate planning attorney. We know estate planning laws and can give you advice on what to include in your will based on your exact situation!