We all know that writing a Will is essential to an estate plan to ensure your loved ones and estate are cared for once you are gone.
However, you may need to learn that there are certain things you should not put in your Will. Generally, a Will is a reasonably easy and straightforward way to declare who gets what when you die, who will be the guardian of your children, etc.
Anything you don’t own outright must be left out of the Will. This article will include tips for writing a Will and examples of some of the most common things you should do out of your Will.
Tips For Writing A Will
For a fundamental Last Will and Testament in Alabama, including the following:
- Hire an estate planning attorney to ensure your will is done correctly and your estate and beneficiaries are in order.
- Choose your beneficiaries.
- Choose the personal representative or executor for your will.
- Choose a guardian for your children.
- Be specific about who will receive your assets, personal items, and other financial resources.
- Be realistic about your choices.
- Attach a letter to your will.
- Sign the will properly with witnesses and a notary.
- Put your will in a safe place, and ensure you let the executor or beneficiaries know where to find it.
- Review and update your will periodically.
- Include other necessary estate planning documents, such as a Trust.
Things To Leave Out Of Your Will
When writing your Will, you should include most of your assets. However, there are certain things that you want to exclude for various reasons.
1. Property In A Trust
A Trust is a separate entity that you can utilize to distribute your assets and operates independently from a Will or an individual. Don’t include anything in your Will that you leave in Trust to avoid confusion or inconsistencies. Once you title property into the Trust, it will become subject to the Trust’s rules which are clearly defined in the Trust and not the Will.
2. Assets That Have Named Beneficiaries
Any financial accounts and other assets payable or transferable on death can be left out of the Will. All these types of investments are paid out or explicitly distributed to named beneficiaries, making it unnecessary for them to be included in your Will. However, you can include information regarding these assets in your letter of instruction.
Rather than putting these assets in your Will, consider assigning them beneficiary designations instead. Assets including the following:
- Brokerage or investment accounts
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts and pension plans
- Life insurance policies
3. All Jointly-Owned Property
Any property you jointly own with anyone else will usually pass directly to the co-owner when you die, so don’t include it in your Will. An example of this would be if you and your partner own stocks in a jointly owned brokerage account, then they will also hold the account and its investments after you die. This arrangement is known as joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.
There may be some situations where you jointly own property with another person, even if both of your names are not specifically named to the asset or account. In a community property state, everything you acquire during your marriage may be considered community property and split equally between you and your spouse. You can leave community property out of your Will since your spouse will automatically be entitled to it once you pass away. Alabama is an equitable distribution state which means that property and debts are shared by both parties and divided fairly and equitably, as opposed to a community property state.
4. Personal Wishes and Desires
While you can be specific in your Will about who receives what, certain conditions, such as my daughter will receive my car only if she uses it to school, may not work. No one can lawfully implement conditional terms, so they should not be included in the Will. If you want to leave someone a gift or asset but have specific requirements about how they use their inheritance, open a Trust so that you have more control over your beneficiaries.
5. Business Interests
You can leave your business to a beneficiary in your Will; however, because Wills must go through the probate process, it can take an extended period. To have a smooth transition, you want to ensure you don’t leave the beneficiary things you don’t want to be tied up in probate.
6. Coverage For A Beneficiary Who Has Special Needs
If your beneficiary has special needs or you have a blended family, then a Will isn’t an ideal option to make arrangements. You have to consider how leaving your estate to a special-needs beneficiary may risk their qualification for government benefits. Setting up a special needs trust Will ensure you can support your loved one while avoiding jeopardizing their government support.
7. Anything You Don’t Want To Go Through Probate
A Will has to go through the probate process and can take months; however, it is better than not having a Will. Without it, your estate will be left up to the courts to decide how your assets will be divided, and your debts will be paid off and are called “intestate.” Transferring your assets into a Trust might be best if you want to avoid probate altogether. Consulting an experienced attorney to help you set up your estate plan is essential.
Brackin Law Firm Is Here To Help You Prepare Your Estate Plan
You want to ensure that your family is taken care of when you die and that your estate plan reflects your wishes and is written correctly. Having a Will in place will clearly define the distribution of your assets, your beneficiaries and children or pets are cared for, and your last wishes are carried out accurately.
At Brackin Law Firm, our experienced attorneys have been preparing estate planning documents for decades for high-earning individuals and families. Whether your estate planning needs are simple or very complex, we are here to help. Contact us today for a consultation and get started preparing for the future.