5 Things You Should Never Put in Your Will

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There are a few things you should never put in your will when you’re planning for your heirs. Understanding these items can help your loved ones avoid misunderstandings and long probate court battles. It’s crucial to tailor your will to your specific needs and goals. What you should never put in your will includes unclear or ambiguous statements. Also, items that don’t apply to your situation can bring delays or problems down the road. Here are five things you should never put in your will!

What You Should Never Put in Your Will

Item 1: Contingencies

Contingencies are conditions that an heir must meet before specific provisions in your will take effect. They top the list of what you should never put in your will.

For example, you might include a contingency that your child can only inherit if they graduate from college. You might write, “I leave my car to my son when he graduates from college.” This statement could cause problems if your son doesn’t graduate from college. Contingencies can complicate the probate process and make it challenging to distribute your assets according to your wishes.

If you want to include contingencies, do so instead in a trust. The trustee you choose can distribute according to any contingency you desire without involving a courtroom. One reason to set up a trust with contingencies for heirs is to make sure that your assets are distributed in the way you want, even if your heirs don’t meet specific qualifications. For example, you might want your assets to go to a particular heir if they graduate from college, but if they don’t, you might want them to go to a different heir. A trust can provide this flexibility and ensure that the trust follows your wishes.

Item 2: Lump Sum Inheritances to Some Cases

Many disabled or special needs individuals receive crucial government benefits to help pay for housing, food, transportation, health insurance, and more. These benefits are income-limited. A disabled person can lose eligibility for these programs if you leave a lump sum inheritance to them.

However, an asset protection attorney can help you set up a special needs supplemental trust. This type of trust can supplement the government benefits by giving monthly amounts from the trust. Monthly distribution allows heirs who qualify for government benefits to live well and still qualify for housing, educational grants, transportation, and health insurance. (1)

You can also use a trust to avoid giving a lump sum inheritance to an irresponsible or addicted heir. Whether the addiction is gambling, shopping, or drugs, these heirs are not in the right mind to receive a lump sum. You can also avoid many taxes for your heirs by using a trust to distribute inheritances. 

Item 3: Minors

You can’t include minors in your will because they’re not legally allowed to inherit property. If you want to leave property to a minor, you’ll need to set up a trust with your asset protection attorney.

One crucial benefit of setting up a trust is including minors as beneficiaries. A trust allows you to leave property to your heirs while ensuring that the trustee you choose manages and distributes it in the way you want. A trust provides a framework for managing and distributing assets according to your wishes, even if the heir doesn’t meet age requirements.

Item 4: Unclear Instructions

Your will should be clear and concise so that there’s no confusion about what you want. If your instructions are unclear, it could cause delays while the court interprets your wishes.

For example, if you leave a conditional gift with unclear instructions, the court may not interpret your statement correctly.  Don’t state, “I leave my house to my daughter if she gets married.” If your daughter gets married and then divorced, the court must deliberate about your intentions.

Don’t write vague statements such as, “I leave my estate to my heirs.” Vague statements also cause delays while the court tries to interpret your wishes. Make sure your gifts are clear and concise.

Item 5: Illegal Assets

If you’re a gun collector, you may not realize that many antique guns cannot go to your heirs through a will. You can’t include illegal items in your will, such as Class 3 weapons. Your heirs could end up with a felony for possessing these types of guns.

If you have a gun collection, talk with your asset protection planning attorney about how to pass them on to your heirs. You can do this with a gun trust, a legal framework that allows you to leave Class 3 weapons to your heirs while ensuring they follow the law.

Including illegal items could cause problems for your beneficiaries, including a criminal record!

Bonus Items: What You Should Never Put In Your Will

  • People you are not close to: Anyone you put in your will has a legal interest in your estate and may receive notices about times and places to contest a will. You don’t want to invite a will contestation.
  • Property or assets you don’t own, such as a trust owned by the trust: If you benefit from an irrevocable trust you don’t personally own, you don’t want to put that into your will. A trust is often a stand-alone entity that distributes money or assets according to the terms in the trust documents.
  • Life insurance policies and retirement plans: No need to include these in a will as long as you name a beneficiary on the account. These items will automatically go to the named beneficiaries without the need for wasted energy in probate court. In fact, it doesn’t even matter what you say about these accounts in your will. The account beneficiary receives the assets, even if your will leaves them to someone else.

We Can Help

Creating a will is an integral part of estate planning, but there are some things you should never put in your will. Taking the time to plan appropriately can help you avoid many common mistakes.

At Vail Gardner Law, we work with you to ensure that your plans protect and distribute your assets as you desire. Our asset protection plans provide peace of mind for you and your family.  If you’re not sure what to include in your will or have questions about asset protection and legacy planning, give us a call at Vail Gardner Law. Find out how we can help you plan for the future!