Making a will is one of the most responsible and worthwhile things you can do in your adult life. Leaving it too late to write up a Will can leave behind a great deal of stress and conflict for your loved ones, at a time when they will already be suffering. It also ensures all your assets are divided as you wish them between the people you love the most, not how the state decides it should be shared out. But how about what not to put in your Will? What can it do and what can it not do?
Some people use their Will to have a last laugh, or maybe to leave a poignant message to someone they’ve left behind. William Shakespeare apparently left his wife his ‘second best bed’, while Napoleon Bonaparte requested his head be shaved and his hair distributed among his friends.
Whether you’re planning a Will, which will be fairly standard or out of this world, there are some things you just cannot include. Here’s what not to put in your Will.
What Not to put in your Will
- Joint accounts: Any funds in your joint account will go to the surviving account holder
- Joint tenancy property: Again, your half will go to the surviving tenant
- Pension benefits: These will usually go to your spouse according to the conditions of the scheme
- Life insurance: Unless you have written your life insurance into your ‘estate’, it will automatically be paid to the beneficiary upon your death
- Business partnership: It’s unlikely you’ll be able to transfer your share in a business to someone else without the consent of the surviving partner(s)
- Anything you don’t own: Obviously you cannot gift anything that is not entirely yours, so leased vehicles, hire purchased items etc. cannot be included.
Things to avoid including in your Will
There are some things which aren’t an absolute no, but you should be wary about including, or at least be very careful with your wording. These include:
- Wishes: Your wishes are important to you and make up the legacy that you leave future generations of your family with, but this is not covered in your Will. If you have specific wishes that you want your Executor to carry out when you are gone, then you really need to pass them on outside of your Will. You can use Lexikin and our Wishes section to manage this and leave the legacy you dream of.
- Conditions: Any gifts which have a condition attached such as marriage or divorce are not legal to include in a Will. You can make encouragements in the Will, for example “To Jenny, for when she graduates from University” or “To Simon, for him to use as a music studio”. Bear in mind there will be nobody to police this after you’re gone unless you have the resources to pay an Executor(s) fee.
- Gifts for pets: You might love your dog more than anyone else in the world, but pets do not have the capacity to own property, so think twice about leaving Rex the holiday home. Think instead about leaving the pet with someone you trust to look after them well, and possibly put some money aside to pay for the pet’s care or donate to animal charities.
- Funeral arrangements: Your Will needs to go through Probate before it can be released to your loved ones and your Estate can begin to be settled. Funeral arrangements are one of the first things that will happen after you die, so if you leave your funeral wishes in your Will, it’s unlikely your loved ones will get to see them in time. Instead, make a funeral plan that can be given to them immediately after you pass.
Aside of these things, you are free and able to gift anything you own to anyone you like, but it is important to always bear in mind what not to put in your Will.
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