Estate planning provides peace of mind that whatever happens to you, your affairs are in order and your survivors have what they need to carry out your wishes.
A will is one of the most basic end-of-life documents and the foundation of many estate plans. Nevertheless, there are certain things that wills can do and some they cannot. Use the following as a guide to what you should include in your will and what to leave out.
What to include in your will
Your estate, i.e., the assets and possessions you leave behind when you die, needs someone to take care of it. Different states have different names for this person; in Florida, he or she is a personal representative. You should choose someone to serve as a personal representative and then name this person in your will to make it official.
According to the American Bar Association, you should also name someone as a guardian to take care of your minor children in your will. You can also create a trust to set aside money for them, but this document does not cover who will assume responsibility for their day-to-day care after your death.
Even if you have a trust, you should also create a will to describe what happens to the assets that have not gone into it yet at the time of your death. The term for this is a pour-over will.
What not to include
Do not include anything in your will that already passes to someone else upon your death by operation of law or contract. Such assets are non-probate property, subject to legal requirements that take precedence over your will. Do not include funeral instructions as the will reading typically takes place after the ceremony.
You can use a will to name a new owner for a pet that survives you. However, do not attempt to bequeath any assets to your pet. Domestic animals are property under the law and do not have legal standing to inherit.
Including things in your will that do not belong or not including important provisions could lead to will challenges and possible invalidation.