Drafting a will is always a wise decision. Of course, it enables a parent or loved one to pass along certain assets to specific beneficiaries. Still, it is also an official legal document that can state instructions for healthcare protocols, designate guardians or caretakers if there are young children and address other vital details. There are also some crucial assets, details or arrangements, however, that cannot or should not go into a will.
What cannot go into a will
Some of these may come as a surprise:
- Jointly owned property: If the co-owner survives the testator (the person with the will), the survivor will receive the deceased’s share of the property regardless of what the will indicates.
- Life insurance: The proceeds from the policy go directly to the beneficiary listed in the policy.
- Retirement plans: Money from the pension, IRA or 401(k) goes to the beneficiary.
- Stocks and bonds: This also goes to a stated beneficiary.
What should not go into a will
Each will is different, but these are often best handled by other means:
- Funeral instructions: Typically, the will is read after the funeral, so this makes no sense to list the instructions there. It is better to leave the arrangements with someone reliable. It also works to pick a particular location known to the family to place these critical instructions.
- Plans for avoiding taxes: Florida does not have estate taxes, nor do beneficiaries have to pay taxes on what they receive. Larger estates may still be subject to federal estate taxes.
- Certain conditions: Any condition in the will that does not conform to the law will not be enforced. Other unenforceable conditions include stipulating that a beneficiary only gets the money if they marry or convert to a specific religion. Keep in mind that putting conditions adds expense, complicates things, and is burdensome to the executor obliged to enforce it.
- Arrangements for special needs: A specially designed trust best handles arrangements for the care of a child or grown adult unable to care for themself.
Attorneys can help with the details
A thoughtful and valid will is a tremendous gift to surviving loved ones. It eliminates the family’s need to guess at what the deceased would have wanted. It also can reduce the number of fights and misunderstandings that can take place among family members.
An estate law attorney working here in Florida can help draft the will, navigate probate, resolve unforeseen issues, and provide a steady neutral presence as an executor or advisor who minimizes the stress involved in this challenging time.