What a Will Doesn’t Do
While your last will and testament is likely the foundational document of your estate plan, it cannot do everything. For instance, you cannot use it to pass the following kinds of property to your heirs:
- Life insurance proceeds that already have a beneficiary designation
- Bank and investment accounts you own jointly with someone else
- Real estate you own with someone else, either as tenancy in the entirety or joint tenants with right of survivorship
- Retirement accounts, pension plans and 401(K)s that already have a beneficiary designation
- Personal property, such as vehicles or solely owned bank accounts, on which you have placed a transfer on death or payable on death designation
- Any of your assets that you place into a trust you establish during your lifetime
You likewise cannot use your will to pass property and assets directly to any minor child(ren) who survive you. Why? Because the laws of every state prohibit minors from owning property in their own name. To provide for them, or for a pet, after your death, you need appropriate trusts that designate the trustee that will manage the trusts on behalf of their respective beneficiaries.
You can place conditions on the bequests you make to your heirs in your will, but they must be reasonable and not against the law or public policy. For instance, you cannot require an heir to do any of the following in order to receive his or her inheritance:
- Commit a crime
- Change his or her religion
- Marry a specific person
- Divorce his or her spouse
- Give up parental rights to his or her child(ren)
Whatever allowable condition(s) that you place on an inheritance, you must make it sufficiently specific that a court will not consider them too vague for the heir to comply with. However, your wording must not indicate in any way that you’re placing the condition(s) on your heir in order to punish him or her.
Keep in mind that, after your death, a court may also void conditions under circumstances such as the following:
- Your heir fulfilled the condition, but after the expiration of the time limit your will required.
- An interested party prevented your heir from fulfilling the condition.
- Your heir tried to fulfill the condition, but failed in his or her attempts through no fault of his or her own.
The more complex and detailed your will, the more you need the advice, counsel and drafting ability of an experienced estate planning lawyer. He or she can make sure your will passes muster. If you would like to contact an estate planning lawyer in Lafayette, LA, then lawyers from a firm like Theus Law Offices may be able to give you a hand.