Estate planning is a highly personal process. Your wishes likely reflect not just your personal experience and values but also your closest relationships. Some people may have limited assets and will only need a last will, while others may need other documents, like a trust.
Even the most involved estate plan will typically include a last will that explains how the testator wants their property distributed after their death. The most important things to include in your last will are accurate details about your assets and identification of beneficiaries.
There are also things that you could include that might make estate administration more complicated or undermine the benefits of your planning. Knowing what not to include in your last will is as important as knowing what you should include.
Don’t discuss assets that don’t have to go through probate
Did you move your house into a trust? If so, it shouldn’t be part of your last will because it isn’t your direct possession anymore. Do you have a life insurance policy with family members designated as beneficiaries? Then that policy doesn’t need to go through probate either.
The same is true for real estate held as a joint tenant with rights of survivorship and bank accounts with transfer on death designations.
Don’t go too far into the details of your wishes or relationships
Your last will is a place for you to talk about your wishes and preferences, as well as some of the reasoning for making those decisions. However, brevity is important in the last will itself, so explaining each decision in detail within the last will may not be the best decision.
You can attach a separate letter that gives special estate administration instructions or explains certain decisions you think people might question, like the disinheritance of a family member.
Don’t place demands on the recipients of the property you leave behind
A last will is a document that guides the bequest of specific assets. Although some people may attach conditions to the inheritance that they leave for loved ones, a last will probably isn’t the best way to manage such a situation. If you have certain requirements that your heirs need to meet before they can inherit specific property, you may need to think about a trust instead of just a last will.
Having someone help you draft a customized last will and periodically review and update your estate plan can ensure that you have the best protection for yourself and the people you love.