Estate planning is a valuable tool for ensuring the distribution of your assets according to your wishes. Creating a will provides your family with clear instructions on what to do after death.
While it is important to your will to contain specifics about your wishes, it might come as a surprise to know that not everything you own requires inclusion in your will.
What to put in the will
There are several pieces of information to include in your will, though state law establishes additional requirements. Identifying information for yourself, your executor and named guardians for minor children or pets is important, as is a list of your assets or property and the named beneficiaries for each. When it comes to a list of assets, not everything must travel through probate. For example, a life insurance policy with a named beneficiary avoids probate, as does transferable- or payable-on-death accounts.
What not to put in the will
In some instances, your loved ones benefit when you leave certain properties out of a will. This includes properties with beneficiary designations, property held by a trust, gifts with special instructions or conditions and jointly-owned property. There is also no need to spell out your wishes or desires concerning your funeral or burial or how to divide up personal items such as clothing, furniture or more. Leaving a letter of instruction containing your personal sentiments can help with these decisions.
A will is a document that helps with simple transactions regarding your assets. A trust can add more in-depth instructions for the division of property, while a detailed letter can provide guidance on personal items.