When Strength of Will is Not Enough: 7 Things Your Last Will & Testament Cannot Accomplish

Serving Clients Throughout Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa Counties

A will is a huge part of many estate plans. However, your will is not the only piece of the estate planning puzzle that you need to consider. Many people assume that once they have created their will, they are done with their entire estate plan. This is often not the case.

There are many things that a will cannot do that affect the majority of people in the United States, and you should have other methods of dealing with those issues built into your estate plan.

Leave Funeral Instructions

It is a common misconception that you should include your funeral instructions in your will. In reality, your will may not be read or even located until long after you have passed. By that time, your loved ones may have already conducted your funeral or memorial services, likely by guessing at what you would have preferred. You should choose other means to convey your funeral instructions to your loved ones separate and apart from your will.

Reduce Estate Taxes

Your will is a means to distribute the property that is in your estate. Other than indicating which property may be a part of your estate, your will really has no impact on the amount of estate taxes that you may need to pay. Instead, you may want to consider a trust or other estate planning tool to reduce or avoid estate taxes.

Leave Certain Types of Property

Certain kinds of property cannot be passed through your will. In this sense, particular assets have an estate planning aspect built into them. The following types of property cannot be addressed in a will:

  • Life insurance
  • Property in a living trust
  • Real estate or other property held in joint tenancy with someone else
  • Pension plans or retirement accounts
  • “Transfer-on-death” or “payable on death” property such as bank accounts or securities

Put Certain Conditions on Gifts

You can gift all of your property to individuals or entities within your will. However, certain conditions cannot be imposed upon these gifts. For example, you cannot leave money to people based on whether they marry, divorce, or alter their religion. Nonetheless, there are certain conditions that you can impose within your will. A contingent gift based on whether a loved one goes to college, for instance, would be valid. Your estate planning attorney can help you determine which contingent gifts are appropriate.

Arrange Care for Beneficiaries with Special Needs

A will is not a good place to set up long-term care for another individual. A special needs trust is a much more appropriate and efficient way to deal with concerns regarding care for loved ones with special needs.

Addressing Needs of Pets

You cannot leave money or other property to an animal. Instead, you should indicate who you would like to care for your pet, and you can arrange for that person to take funds or particular property. California also allows you to create a trust specifically for your pet as well. This type of estate planning tool may be much more useful compared to arranging for your pets in your will.

Getting Legal Help

Having an attorney with estate planning experience on your side can help you deal with issues that you may not realize cannot be addressed in a will. Contact the Carroll Law Office for more information.

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