If you’ve gotten this far, then you’re most likely standing in front of a blank page, staring into that terrifying abyss known as your will.
You’re pumped to finally get rid of that old vacuum cleaner and other such items, but before you do so, there’s one thing you should know: What should not be included in a will.
A will is a document that deals with what happens to your worldly possessions when you die. The last thing anyone wants is for their loved ones and the recipients of their inheritance to fight over what they want or need because they didn’t specify it in their will. This article lists 11 things not to put in your will for this very reason.
Dependent Personal Care
This is tough because it’s challenging to predict healthcare costs in the future. But don’t forget, you’re writing a will, which means that you’ll be dead when someone has to make these tough decisions.
It’s best to leave this out of your choice entirely and have a trusted advisor decide on your behalf if and when the time comes.
It should be clear at this point that whether or not you believe in an afterlife makes no difference in how people treat each other here on Earth.
It’s best to leave out religious affiliations in your will and trust a legal guardian to handle the details accordingly.
There are few things more personal than your political beliefs. And while it’s perfectly fine to make your political preferences known to others, including them in a will is entirely unnecessary.
Your family doesn’t need to know who you’re voting for in the next election, and neither do the people that read your will after your death.
Debts & Inventories of Assets
Your debts are not part of your estate, which means they have no place in your will. It’s a good idea to keep them separate to avoid having the recipient of your assets sued for your outstanding debts.
Similarly, the inventory of your assets is unnecessary. If you own something, it will be included. If you don’t, it will not. You don’t need to list every piece of furniture or what’s stored in your attic (and not in the garage)
Specific Item Purses & Savings
Don’t waste space in your will citing specific amounts of cash or properties that particular family members should receive. The courts will most likely decide who should accept what based on the need and overall value of the estate. Similarly, don’t indicate amounts you want to put toward your final expenses or charitable donations.
Leave those decisions to the recipients within the will.
Receiving custodial care is a very personal decision and requires a degree of trust between the involved parties.
Do not list your medical history or end-of-life preferences in your will, as it leaves friends and family no wiggle room if they disagree with your decisions regarding this important matter. Instead, appoint a trusted person (a power of attorney) to make these decisions for you so that there is no room for disagreement down the line.
Down Payment & Mortgage Arrangements
While it is essential to have a good grasp on your home’s value and what will be paid off in the event of your death, your home is an asset, not a financial liability.
Therefore, listing down payments and other arrangements in your will can create unnecessary confusion for future beneficiaries. Instead of providing specific figures, indicate how you want the home to be managed after your death during probate proceedings.
Final Personal Spending Plans and Details
Don’t include specific items for holiday shopping if you know that you don’t want to receive them or take part in any gifts exchange at all.
This may seem unappealing, but don’t forget that your final spending plan and details should be handled by people who knew and loved you, not your will.
Forgetful Beneficiaries (You)
If you know that you have a certain gift recipient in mind, then, by all means, mention it in your will. But if you’re having trouble keeping track of all the people who enter or exit your life, then think twice about putting this information in writing.
Instead of wasting space on paper or a computer to write down every person or couple whose child or child’s child has now turned 18 and is thus eligible for an inheritance, leave this job to a trusted friend or family member.
They’ll thank you for the effort, and you won’t have to worry about overlooking anyone.
Divorce Arrangements with Ex-Spouses
It’s always a good idea to inform your ex-spouse of your death at the earliest possible convenience so that they can start making arrangements for their funeral as well.
However, if you feel that it is necessary to include details regarding a specific amount of money or property to be given to your ex-spouse, write that information in a separate letter and leave it with your will.
After all, this information is not part of your estate (and neither are their future requests).
Your Pet’s Will
Do not include the distribution of your pet’s care/custody in your will.
Instead, leave this information with someone who loves and cares for the pet as much as you do.
Even if you don’t want to provide specific details on how your pet should be taken care of, it is always a good idea to appoint a trusted individual to make these decisions for you. Include an overall dollar amount that can be used for this purpose, but leave the details out.
Your last request should not be about a furry friend that doesn’t even know you’re gone.
Your Loved One’s Estate
It might seem inherently right to include information suggesting that your spouse’s assets be added to your existing estate, but this will only give them legal grounds to contest the validity of your will.
Instead, appoint a separate power of attorney (or an impartial third party) to avoid potential legal entanglements. You can leave the decisions regarding specific assets up to the person you’ve appointed within the will.
That way, both choices can be valid and enforceable.
Letters of Validation
If your will is located in a safe deposit box, it may be necessary to write a letter to your executor that includes details on how to access the documents. But beware!
These letters are often used as evidence of duplicity if they are located with the will.
It is best not to include this information in the original document.
Instead, write and secure this document elsewhere before you go ahead and hide your original will. Your executor can follow the instructions precisely as detailed in the separate letter when they eventually open it up.
Remember if your will has been written online, by making a will online you have created a copy that is stored on the internet. Some companies, for a fee, will store a paper copy of this in fireproof safes. Others will store online indefinitely, again for a fee.
Photographs & Photos of the Living Will
Don’t include photos of your living will in your will.
Instead, be sure to mark it with an “X” so that family members know not to open it. It’s a good idea to keep associated information (like where your will is located) in a separate location if you have any doubts about the validity or honesty of your executor.
You can also write down some specifics on how the pictures should be handled after you’re gone if there are any questions later on.
Life insurance Trusts
If you’re concerned that future beneficiaries may misuse funds after your death, put them into a trust instead. This prevents your beneficiaries from accessing your funds until their death.
Also, some life insurance companies will allow you to name a beneficiary of their choosing within the trust, which makes this type of charitable gift even more generous.
Please don’t leave any specific details regarding how you want your charity donations distributed in your will, as this may open the door for future requests or lawsuits about the legitimacy of the distribution or who receives it. Learn more here.
Instead, create separate choices for each charitable organization and clarify all these details in those documents.
This way, you can be sure no discrepancies will occur after you’re gone, and your family knows exactly what they are receiving and when it’s coming in.
In conclusion, it is always a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney before finalizing your estate plan and writing your will. Life can change quickly and unexpectedly, so making sure you understand all the implications of putting your will into action could save you an incredible amount of grief and money in the long run.