David Howard Goldberg, P.L.

A will may be for everyone, but it's not for everything

Most adults need a will. The will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. Perhaps you have heard this before, and you recently decided that it is time to create yours.

As you embark on this task, you may receive a plethora of advice from friends and family regarding what to put into your will. What you may not have yet heard is that some things do not belong in your will, especially if one of your estate planning goals is to make the estate administration process easier on your surviving loved ones.

A will is not the place for certain property

Yes, a will facilitates the transfer of the property you own at death to the individuals you choose. This may lead you to believe that, if it is in your will, a chosen individual will receive it as an inheritance. The problem is that some property cannot be put into a will because it passes by operation of law:

  • If you fill out forms at your bank to make your accounts payable on death to a particular person or people, the bank is under obligation to disburse the funds as you indicated.
  • If you have a life insurance policy, you designated one or more beneficiaries who receive the proceeds after your death.
  • If you have stocks and/or bonds that you named a beneficiary to receive, that is where they will go regardless of what your will says.
  • If you have a retirement account that required you to designate someone to receive its proceeds upon your death, then that person or people will receive its funds when you pass away.
  • If you have property in which the title makes you a joint tenant with someone else, the other person automatically receives your interest in the property when you die.

It does not matter what your will says about these types of property. They will pass to whomever you designated. Attempting to pass on this property through your last will and testament only complicates matters and more than likely causes unnecessary confusion and conflict within your family.

Other matters

Property is not the only thing you need to carefully consider whether to put in your will. If you want certain funeral arrangements, you shouldn't put them in your will because most families do not even look at this document until after the funeral and burial. A will goes through the probate process, so any property in it must wait until resolving all other matters before your loved ones can receive their inheritances.

These are just some of the other considerations you need to consider when making your will. The best way to make sure that you do not inadvertently put something in your will that will only make things more difficult for your loved ones is to consult with an attorney experienced in estate planning.

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