Future Planning

Nine Items You Don’t Want in a Final Will

BY Anne Johnson TIMESeptember 3, 2022 PRINT

Most people either have or are considering writing a last will. It’s a legal way to spell out the distribution of your assets. It’s also a vehicle to tell survivors what wishes you have for your minor children’s care.

Knowing what to put in your final will is essential. But if you genuinely want your wishes to be followed, it’s just as important to know what not to put in your will. So here are nine items that you should be aware of.

1. Organ Donor Wishes

Hopefully, if you’re lying on your death bed or in a terrible accident, no one is grabbing your will to have a look. A will takes effect upon death. That means if you want to be an organ donor and put it in your will, it won’t be seen until it’s too late.

Let someone know your wishes. Even better, sign up on your state’s registry. You can also use your driver’s license to show your wishes. And finally, include your organ donor wishes in your medical power of attorney.

2. Planned Funeral Arrangements

You passed, and your family had a funeral service and buried you. Two weeks later, the family finds and opens the will to discover you wanted to be cremated without a service. It’s too late. Never put your funeral arrangements in a will.

Instead, write out separately what you want and give it to a family member. The best-case scenario is to go ahead and make your own arrangements with a local funeral home.

3. Bequeathing a Life Insurance Policy

Jenny has been wonderful to you, and you want to reward her at your death. So, you leave her your $100,000 life insurance policy in your will. But unfortunately, years ago, you had named Chris as the designated beneficiary on the policy.

It doesn’t matter what you wrote in your will. Chris is the designated beneficiary of the insurance policy. Contact the insurance company if you change your mind about who you want to leave your life insurance. You’ll need to fill out a new designated beneficiary form. The will is not where you make that change.

4. End-of-Life Decisions

The last will and testament is just that: the last will. It’s not the same as a living will or medical power of attorney. By the time your family looks at the will, you’ll be gone. Any final instructions you want followed will not be seen until long after you’re gone.

Have your attorney draw up a living will or medical power of attorney. Let your family know about it. Then it will be available so that your family can follow your wishes.

5. Retirement Account Bequeaths

An IRA, 401 (k) plan, annuities, etc., all need designated beneficiaries. You can’t put them in a will. No matter how badly you want Claire to have your retirement account, just naming her in the will won’t do it. You must have her listed as a designated beneficiary on the retirement plan.

Make sure you review your retirement account beneficiaries periodically to ensure that who you want to receive your assets indeed does.

6. Care for Special-Needs Person

Even though you want to make arrangements for your special-needs child or sister, you shouldn’t do it in a will. Leaving them a portion of your estate in a will may interfere with them receiving public aid for their care.

Instead, have your attorney set up a special-needs trust. This type of trust will allow your special-needs loved one to receive income without jeopardizing their public assistance.

7. Property in a Living Trust

A living trust is similar to a will in that it allows individuals to leave their assets to their family or charities. But there is a big difference: a living trust owns the property. However, you control the trust while you’re alive.

A benefit of a living trust is that you can still bequeath assets to individuals, but they won’t have to go through probate court to receive those assets. There are other benefits, and there are different types of trusts.

But if you put an asset in the living trust, you can’t turn around and bequeath it again in your will. The trust now owns the asset. Upon your death, the item will go to the beneficiaries you’ve named on the trust, not the will.

8. Leave Assets to a Pet

A pet cannot be willed assets because it is considered property. You can, however, have a conversation with someone you trust and have them care for your animal. Then you can bequeath assets to that individual for your pet’s care. Or you can set up a pet trust. Discuss your options with your attorney.

9. Messages to Beneficiaries

Don’t go on a rant. In other words, resist the urge to explain why you’re leaving one person a lot of money but another person nothing. A will is not the place for long-winded messages.

If you are disinheriting someone and want them to know why, write them a letter. But don’t put it in the will. Remember, this will must go through probate court. This means your message will be public record.

Let Your Will Work for You

Wills are used to pass on assets. When writing your will, ensure you only put in what is really needed. Also, stay on top of your retirement accounts and life insurance policies. They need to have updated designated beneficiaries.

But take care of yourself as well. Don’t put end-of-life requests or funeral arrangements in your last will. You want your final wishes acted upon and respected.

The Epoch Times Copyright © 2022 The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors. They are meant for general informational purposes only and should not be construed or interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation. The Epoch Times does not provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, estate planning, or any other personal finance advice. The Epoch Times holds no liability for the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided.

Anne Johnson
Anne Johnson was a commercial property & casualty insurance agent for nine years. She was also licensed in health and life insurance. Anne went on to own an advertising agency where she worked with businesses. She has been writing about personal finance for ten years.
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