A Will is a really useful document when it comes to disposing of your estate after your death. It is the only way to guarantee that those you would wish to benefit from your estate actually do. You can set out instructions for gifts, trusts funds and even make provision for your pets, but what shouldn’t you include when writing your Will?
Below are a few things that should not be included.
- Funeral Plans.
Although it may seem like an obvious place to express your funeral wishes, your Will isn’t necessarily the best place for these. Many people like to express a preference in their Will as to whether they would like to be buried or cremated, but these wishes aren’t legally enforceable. Furthermore, your Will may not actually be read until several weeks after your funeral so if you have specific wishes regarding your funeral, it is best to discuss these ahead of time with your loved ones and arrange for services to be paid out of your estate or you could arrange your funeral in advance through a pre-paid funeral plan.
If you died today, you would likely leave behind a sizeable amount of “property” in your digital estate. This includes iTunes purchases, eBooks, and items in other cloud-based online accounts. Whilst it is a good idea to give your Executors and Trustees the power to access, use, distribute and dispose of your digital assets, one thing you should not include in your Will is the passwords for these accounts, this is because after your death, your Will becomes a public document.
- Jointly Held Property.
Pretty much the defining feature of a joint tenancy is the right of survivorship, meaning that when you or the other joint tenant dies, the survivor automatically owns the property in full. So, putting your interest in a joint tenancy in your Will is meaningless, as when you die, that interest disappears. This doctrine of survivorship not only applies to joint bank accounts but houses that are held jointly too. If you would like to pass on your share of a property to someone other than the other joint owner, you will need to sever the tenancy so that you can leave your share in your Will. You should always seek legal advice before doing this.
- Life Insurance and Retirement Funds.
Life insurance and retirement plans usually require you to designate a beneficiary of the plan upon your death. When you die, the assets associated with your life insurance or retirement fund will immediately transfer to the intended beneficiary, so they can’t be distributed by your Will. If you have not nominated a beneficiary or written the policy into trust then you can dispose of these assets in your Will.
- Illegal Gifts and Requests.
It may sound obvious, but illegal requests will not be followed. You may be literally dying to unload a cache of illicit drugs or to have your relatives burn down a building in honour of your death, but the law frowns upon Wills containing those kind of illegal requests.
- Cutting People Out.
You may have perfectly valid reasons for cutting someone out of your Will, but it may be best to keep your reasons for doing so out of your Will. Instead, you may prefer to write a separate letter of wishes detailing your reasons why you have cut that person out. The reason for this is that as mentioned above, your Will becomes a public document after death and lots of people do not want to air their dirty laundry in public.
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