As estates become more complex and wishes become more detailed, many individuals have opted to forego the traditional will and create trusts instead. Both allow you to designate heirs and gift property, but wills carry out wishes after your death and trusts begin the moment they are created. Both wills and trusts have specific guidelines to follow when writing them. Having an experienced attorney can help you avoid making mistakes that can invalidate your will or trust.
If you are considering creating a will, knowing what can and cannot be included may save time when sitting down with your attorney. While you may want to include stipulations and requests in your will, certain things are prohibited. And knowing what they are can keep the probate and distribution process running smoothly.
Your attorney will likely advise you on the types of property that can't be given away upon your death. Property that is locked up in a trust and property that is a joint-tenancy property cannot be given away. Likewise, any type of financial asset that has a beneficiary already named should not be included in your will. These types of properties include life insurance benefits, retirement accounts and stocks. Typically these assets have your beneficiary already named right in the policy or on the account. Upon your death, the companies holding these assets will distribute them to your beneficiaries.
It is common for individuals to include certain messages in their will along with their bequests. These may be words designed to inspire heirs to do certain things with their inheritance. While most requests are fine, there are some that must be avoided. Any requests or stipulation regarding religion, marriage or divorce are not enforceable and will not void an inheritance if the heir does not follow it. Not only are these requests not enforceable but just including them may prolong the probate process.
Your will may be as detailed or as simple as you want it to be. However knowing what can be included and what should be avoided can keep the process of creating it simple and easy. Speaking to an attorney can help you create an appropriate and effective will.