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5 Matters That Should Not Be Handled in Your Will

Last will
Writing a will is an important part of providing a safe and secure future for your loved ones as well as making your wishes known for your own belongings. But it's not a catch-all document in which you can cover every aspect of your post-death instructions. In fact, here are five things that you can't - or shouldn't - manage through a will.

1. Pet Care Money

Want to make sure Fluffy and Spot are well taken care of when you pass away? More and more Americans consider their pets like their children, so they are including money and instructions for their care in their wills. But since you can't actually leave money to an animal, you would have to leave it to a person for the animal's care. Unfortunately, once the animal legally belongs to another person, you have no control over that pet, nor the money given to the person.

The better choice is to create a trust for your pet. A trust involves a legal obligation with an executor and legal ramifications for not following your stated instructions for the animal's care.

2. Special Needs Care

Are you responsible for a relative, child, or friend who has special needs? Then you have a responsibility to provide direction for their care if something happens to you. But, as with pet care, this important assignment should be handled through a separate document for the best result for your loved one.

3. Anything With a Beneficiary

A large portion of many Americans' estate is held in financial accounts, such as retirement accounts, life insurance, and bank accounts. These accounts generally require that you designate a beneficiary (or beneficiaries) who will be distributed these assets upon proof of your death. This process is clearly spelled out, and it usually cannot be undone or overridden with a will.

Rather than specifying dollar amounts and particular assets in your will, take the time to ensure that you have correct beneficiary information on each financial account. You may reference them in your will, but the legal part is the instructions in the beneficiary information in the account.

4. Wild Requests

Leaving some requests or surprises for your heirs is a good way to help those left behind to celebrate your life in the way you want. But your will should not be used to make unenforceable requirements, outlandish requests, or illegal activities. Wills with such inclusions could become de-legitimized if contested.

Don't, for instance, leave money to your young niece to go out and enjoy a drink on her 18th birthday in your memory or for your uncle to buy weed (if not legal in your state). Likewise, don't leave money to a couple on the condition that they always love each other or to a child on the condition that they live a good life. Who decides what "good" means? How do you enforce this condition? And what time-frames are applicable? Such requests become complex or legally invalid.

If you do have any wilder requests, discuss them with the intended heirs in person or leave them in a separate, private letter.

5. Tax Planning

If your estate is large enough to warrant tax planning, do that planning in other ways than just a will. Tax planning is complex, and it often requires more specific vehicles such as trusts, foundations, and bequests. Talk with your attorney and accountant to determine what legal means of reducing taxes are best for your particular situation, and then put these in place - in advance - outside your will.

Do you have any of these special concerns for your estate planning? Then start by consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney to create an estate plan that will cover all your needs. At Kisner Law Firm, we're here to help. Call for a consultation today.