Why Your Estate Plan Needs More Than Just a Will
We get it. Making a will is a big deal, and it is a huge step toward establishing a comprehensive estate plan. However, it is not all that you need. Many people who spend years avoiding the task of creating a will feel they can lay down the gauntlet the second the ink is dry, but it is important to understand the limits of a will so that you can also plan for the gaps it leaves in your overall estate plan. Trying to accomplish or dictate too much in your will can actually result in certain provisions or even the entire document being void. This is why it is important to have an estate plan, and not just a single document. Below, we will take a look at what a will cannot do, as well as provide you some guidance on how to address those issues.
What Not to Use a Will for
First of all, a will only applies to probate assets. Non-probate assets, such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, and even homes that have a co-owner with a right to survivorship, will automatically transfer to the co-owner upon your death. If the co-owner would have been your intended recipient anyway, then this is not a problem. However, if you want these assets dispersed among multiple beneficiaries or have different plans for them, even including a provision in the will to that effect will not work, as they are non-probate assets that fall outside the scope of the will. A will also cannot be used to control people’s behavior from beyond the grave. While it may sound rather morbid and cryptic, it is more common than you may think.
Not all conditions on inheritance are illegal. You may, for example, leave your granddaughter an inheritance provided she graduates from college. However, conditions relating to marriage, divorce, or a change in religion will likely be found by the court to be void against public policy and will not be upheld. A will can also not be used to leave money to your pet, as it is not a person. If you leave money to someone on the condition that they care for your pet, keep in mind that there is no way to enforce this, and other methods, such as a trust or written agreement may be more effective. While many people think that a will is a perfectly acceptable place to lay out their funeral plans and after-death wishes, this is also not the case. After a death, a funeral is often the first matter of business that the family attends to, and the will is generally not reviewed until after the funeral has taken place. This means that your wishes may not be known until it is too late. Finally, a will is not the appropriate place to include any wishes or plans with regard to your medical care or the care of a special needs person. There are other much more effective estate-planning tools that can accomplish these goals.
Schedule a Consultation with the SG Law Firm
If you are ready to make a comprehensive estate plan that meets all of your needs, or if you require assistance with an estate planning matter, the experienced estate planning attorneys at Florida’s SG Law Firm are ready to help. Contact the SG Firm today to schedule a consultation.