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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Monday, September 9, 2019

7 Things Not to Include When Writing a Will

There are several things that every will should include, such as the name of your personal representative, guardian for minor children, names of heirs, and directions for dividing assets among heirs. However, several items should not appear in a will. If you have questions about what should and should not be included in your will, a California estate planning attorney can answer questions and explain California’s estate laws.

Seven Things That Should Not Be in Your Will

1. Property held by a trust

Property held by a trust passes directly to beneficiaries outside of your estate. Utilizing various trust agreements as part of your estate plan allows you to avoid probate, reduce estate taxes, retain greater privacy, and protect property from creditors and other parties.

2. Life insurance policies with beneficiaries

The only time it is necessary to include an insurance policy in your will is if you intend to name your estate as the beneficiary and you have a specific purpose for the proceeds of the life insurance policy.

3. Retirement accounts, stocks, and bonds

These assets have beneficiary designations that allow the assets to pass outside of probate directly to a beneficiary. You do not need to include these assets in your will. It is wise to review your beneficiary designations each time you review your estate plan or make any changes to your will or estate plan.

4. Property with joint right of survivorship or joint tenancy property

Property that passes directly to a co-owner does not need to be in your will. By law, the co-owner receives your share of the property upon your death, regardless of what you might state in your will.

5. Logins and passwords for digital assets

Your will should include all digital assets in which you have an ownership interest, including bank accounts, digital currency, PayPal accounts, iTunes accounts, and other online accounts. However, you should not include the logins and passwords for any digital assets in your will. Instead, you need to include instructions for your personal representative as to the location (which should be secure) of this information.

6. Funeral plans and preferences

Your will directs how your final estate should be distributed upon your death, including directing your estate to pay for funeral and burial costs. It is not the instrument that you should use to make your funeral plans and preferences known to your personal representative and family. It is best to discuss your preferences with family members directly. If you desire, you could attach a letter to your will outline your preferences.

7. Bequeaths to pets

Pets cannot own property or receive money. If you wish to provide for your pet after your death, you should consider executing a Pet Trust that holds title to assets that can be used to care for your pet after your death.

Contact a California Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney for Assistance

Everyone needs a will and an estate plan. Without a will, California’s intestate laws determine who inherits your estate. A California estate planning and elder law attorney can help you develop an estate plan that meets your needs and accomplishes your goals. Contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Horizon Law today to discuss your estate planning needs.

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