A will is the first thing many people think of when they hear the words “estate plan.” It is one of the most important of the basic estate planning documents, but it does not handle everything, and there are limits to what it can accomplish for you. Here are some things a will won’t do that you should discuss with an estate lawyer in Sacramento, like from the Yee Law Group.
1. Leave Money for an Illegal Purpose
It rarely comes up, but leaving money to accomplish something illegal is not a request that will be honored and could hurt the validity of the entire document. However, if you left money for a purpose that was not illegal when you wrote the will but becomes so by the time you die, the cy pres doctrine may apply. In this situation, your money may go to support a similar objective that remains legal.
2. Arrange for the Care of Someone With Special Needs
Leaving money to your beneficiary directly can hurt his or her government benefit eligibility. It is possible to arrange for the care of a special-needs beneficiary, but a will is not the place to do it. Most people opt for a special needs trust instead. It ensures your beneficiary receives the necessary care without disqualifying him or her for benefits.
3. Leave Money to Pets
Pets do not have the legal status to own property, so you cannot bequeath it to them directly in your will. You can, however, designate someone in your will to take care of your pet after you are gone. It may also be possible to set up a trust to fund the pet’s care. This may not be necessary unless it is a large animal that eats a lot of food or has special medical needs.
4. Give Funeral Instructions
Ordinarily, it is only after the funeral that the will is read. Therefore, if you have special requests or plans for your funeral, you should leave the instructions in a separate document. You can inform your executor or whomever you want to handle the funeral arrangements where to find it. It is best to write down your instructions rather than communicating them verbally to your family.
5. Avoid Probate
Property bequeathed in a will is known as probate property. That means that there is a process of verification that it has to go through before your heirs will receive it. A will is not the best option for people interested in avoiding probate. You may want to consider alternatives, such as payable-on-death accounts, joint tenancy, or living trusts.
You can prevent contests or challenges later by making sure that your will does not attempt to do anything it’s not supposed to. An attorney can help you make a valid estate plan when you contact a law office.