Creating a will is the cornerstone of estate planning – a will names a guardian for minor children, names an executor for an estate and allows you to distribute your property. While wills are certainly critical, they are not the place for all of your estate planning directives.
Some of the issues that should not be addressed in a will are:
A will is not read until after you pass, so advance medical directives, a set of documents that address medical and power of attorney issues, should be addressed within their own legal documents.
Wills are often not found or read for several days after you die. Funeral plans need to be made immediately, so it is best to address funeral and burial wishes in a letter to your estate’s executor. Make sure to advise the executor of the location and even the contents of the letter.
While it may be entertaining to base an inheritance on a contingency as important as divorce or marriage, this is generally not permitted in a will. There is an estate planning method to make an inheritance contingent on goals such as college graduation, maintaining gainful employment or even aiming lower and just hoping for clean criminal and drug records, and that can be done by creating a trust.
Planning for a Loved One with Special Needs
If you have a loved one with special needs, leaving them an inheritance may make them ineligible for certain benefits. It is best to address their needs by creating a trust rather than making a bequest in your will. A trust is a legal entity that holds property and protects it for the benefit of a named beneficiary. A trust that is needed to help care for a loved one can be set up while you are still living, it is not necessary to wait until you pass.
A will is a fundamental part of estate planning, but it certainly is not the only aspect. Work with an estate planning attorney to determine the tools that will best meet the needs and goals of your family.