What Does a Will Not Do?

Wills and Their Functions

When it comes time to prepare a comprehensive estate plan, a will is usually first on the list. This document is used to bestow items on those you choose. For example, in your will, you can leave jewelry, furniture and even cash to others. However, there are certain post-mortem actions that your will cannot perform. Find out what some of these things are so you can discuss taking alternative routes with your estate planning lawyer.

You Cannot Place Contingencies on Heirs

As you go through the process of creating your will, some decisions will come easier than others. For instance, if you are married, it is most likely that your spouse will inherit most of what you own. You may want to bequeath certain items to other people, which you can do in your will. However, you cannot put conditions or contingencies in your will. For instance, you cannot account for something such as a divorce in the will. This means that if you name your spouse the heir and do not change your will before divorce, that ex will have a valid claim to your estate.

You Cannot Account for Things You Do Not Own

An account or piece of property you legally own together with someone else should not go in a will. While there are some instances of leaving your share to someone else, it is more likely that the person who co-owns it will get it. This is the typical way these accounts work. Thus, you should not account for anything in your will that you do not own. You can add the caveat that if you and your spouse die together, these items pass to the next person or persons in line. You cannot, however, gift anyone else the full rights to your home if you do not own it.

You Cannot Set Up Care for Certain People or Pets

If you are responsible for a person with special needs, you need to ensure that they are cared for after you die. While you can name a guardian for minor children in your will, you cannot do the same for an adult. You must have a separate document setting forth care for that individual. The same holds for your pets. You cannot leave an animal to someone in your will or leave your pet an inheritance. You must prepare separate documents for these unique care situations.

While you should be thinking about what to put in your will before creating it, an estate planning lawyer in Bergen County, NJ from a firm like Kaplan Law Practice, LLC can offer suggestions. Not only that but ensuring that your plan is legal and will withstand a court action should be an important step.