What Your Will Can and Cannot Do
If you are beginning the process of putting your will together, you probably have a lot of questions. What is a will actually used for? Can you use your will to name a new guardian for your children? What can a will not do? Before you begin working on your will, it is a good idea to know the answers to these questions. This is just one of the reasons why it is so beneficial to work with an estate planning attorney to create your will. This guide will provide you with the answers you need, although you should not use it as a substitute for the expertise of an attorney.
What Can Your Will Do?
There are three primary purposes of a will:
- Determine who will receive which of the estate owner’s possessions
- Establish who will be the guardian of any minor children
- Name the executor of the will
You are probably already aware of the first purpose. Most people think of a will as being exclusively for describing who of your loved ones should receive what. Importantly, a will also names who will be the guardian of your minor children in the event you die. If the other parent of any children is still alive, he or she will automatically assume guardianship. Your will describes who the guardian should be in the event both parents are deceased or otherwise unable to be a guardian. Finally, a will determines who should be the executor. The executor of a will ensures everything in it is carried out correctly.
What Can Your Will not Do?
There are some things that people assume their will can do, even though it cannot. These include:
- Give funeral directions
- Put conditions on certain possessions
- Avoid taxation or probate
- Pass on certain types of possessions
Your will can point out a separate document that will give funeral instructions, however. If you wish to put conditions on certain possessions, such as a grandchild only receiving a car if they have a driver’s license at the time, you may want to consider using a living trust. Trusts can put any conditions you like on your possessions. All wills are subject to taxation and probate. If that is a concern for you, a living trust may also avoid these things. Finally, you should speak with an attorney or do your own research to learn which kinds of possessions cannot be included on a will in your state. It is always a good idea to work with an attorney, to put your will together.