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The most common tool for estate planning is a will. This document is best known for deciding how your possessions will be distributed at the time of your death. However, a will is a little more complicated than that and it deals with more aspects than simply ownership. After all, what we usually just call a will is really called a “last will and testament.” If you are planning your estate, it is important for you to know what a will does and what you should include in yours. Remember, it is a complicated process to set up a will, so you should always speak with an estate planning attorney.
What a Will Can Do
The things your will can do includes:
- Designate who receives your possessions – This is the most straightforward part of a will. You can decide who will receive each of your possessions individually. There are very few restrictions, which means you can distribute your estate nearly any way you wish.
- Name an executor – Every will needs to have an executor, whether or not you name one. An executor is the individual who will ensure the will is carried out correctly. If your will does not name an executor, the courts will name one for you, which may delay the process considerably.
- Choose new guardians for your children – If your children are young enough to not be considered adults, then your will should designate who their new legal guardian will be.
- Provide instructions for pets – A will can even provide instructions for who will receive your pets so you do not have to worry about your animal companions’ well-being.
What a Will Cannot Do
While a will is an incredibly useful tool, it cannot do everything. Here are the things you should not expect a will to accomplish:
- Set conditions – You can decide who receives what, but you cannot make it conditional. For example, you cannot specify that a family member will receive $1,000 only if he or she graduates college. This is something a trust can do instead.
- Provide funeral instructions – Your will cannot specify how you would like your funeral or final arrangement to be. You need to provide these details in a separate document and ensure your executor knows about it.
- Designate recipients for certain types of property – Most commonly, property that is already in a trust cannot be included in a will. Other types of property might be invalid depending your state. You should speak to an estate lawyer in Phoenix, AZ to learn more about this limitation.
Thanks to Kamper Estrada, LLP for their insight into estate planning and what a will can do.