What shouldn’t I include in my will?

Everyone, no matter their age, should have a thorough estate plan in place to protect their loved ones after they are gone. Some studies have shown that 55 percent of Americans don’t have a will in place by the time they die. That leaves families vulnerable to stressful and costly legal battles.

If you have a will as part of your estate plan, good for you. You’ve taken the most important step you can take to plan your family’s future. But believe it or not, there are some things you shouldn’t include in your will, according to estate planning attorneys and financial experts.

Don’t leave your funeral wishes in your will. The truth is, most final affairs and settling of the estate begins after the funeral has ended and the out-of-towners have returned home. If you have ideas of what you want your funeral to be like, or how you want to be buried or cremated, don’t leave them in the will. It might be too late and your family members could feel as though they have let you down. Instead, talk to your spouse, children or other close family members and friends about your wishes. You can even give them or the chosen executor of your estate a written outline of how you’d like to be honored in a funeral or memorial service and whether you prefer to be buried or cremated.

Don’t leave anything to a pet. Pets are family, no question. But in the eyes of Florida lawmakers, pets cannot own property. Instead, choose a person you’d like to care for your pet if you die, along with money to care for your dog, cat, bunny or whatever animal you own and love.

Don’t leave property you co-own in a will. If you own property in a joint tenancy your share of that property automatically belongs to the surviving co-owner after you die. A will provision leaving your share would have no effect unless the other co-owner dies when you do.

Don’t leave property you’ve placed in a trust, including a revocable trust (which is a trust that can be modified before you die if your circumstances change). Property that is put into a trust passes automatically to the beneficiary, such as a child, that you have already chosen. It’s outlined in a trust document, so it cannot be passed on as property in a will.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

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