While many recognize the significance of estate planning, a 2021 Gallup poll revealed that only 46% of U.S. adults actually have a will. This highlights a common oversight in end-of-life planning.
A will safeguards the honoring of your wishes and the distribution of your assets according to your intentions. When assembling one, it is important to understand not only what to include but also what to omit. There are some details that should not be part of your will.
1. Personal sentiments
Although it might be tempting to express your deepest emotions or grievances in your will, it is not the appropriate venue for personal sentiments. Wills are legal documents designed to distribute assets and provide instructions, not to convey emotional messages. Save those heartfelt sentiments for personal letters or conversations with loved ones.
2. Specific funeral instructions
Despite the natural inclination to include detailed funeral arrangements in a will, it is not the best approach. Wills are often read after the burial has taken place, making it impractical to execute your immediate wishes. Communicate your funeral preferences with your loved ones separately to ensure they know and respect your plans.
3. Certain types of property
While it is common to include details about valuable assets in a will, some property is inappropriate. Items such as jointly owned property, life insurance proceeds with named beneficiaries, and assets held in trusts bypass the probate process, rendering the will irrelevant for their distribution.
4. Conditional gifts
Wills are for the straightforward distribution of assets, not for imposing conditions on inheritances. Attempting to control behavior or enforce specific actions through a will can lead to legal complications and may not be legally binding. It is advisable to explore alternative legal avenues for such matters.
Crafting a will requires a careful and thoughtful approach to ensure that it serves its intended purpose when you are gone.