What you should know about writing a will
And how advance funeral planning can help ensure your end-of-life wishes are carried out
By Meghan Sullivan
Like many people, you might not like to think about death, so you’ve put off getting your affairs in order. If you wait too long, though, your loved ones may be left behind to deal with what happens if you die without a will. To make it easier on them with some planning ahead, find out what you can and can’t include in your will and the benefits of advance funeral planning.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document in which you declare who will receive or manage specific parts of your estate upon your death. Some details should always be included in your will, such as who becomes the guardian of your children, if you have any who are underage when you pass, and who inherits certain property you owned. But did you know that some items can’t be covered in your will?
What you can’t put in your will
Michael Horn, attorney with Horn Law Offices in Des Moines, Iowa, said, “A will generally creates a one-time transfer of property when you die. You generally do not have the ability to say what that property can be used for. If you want to have more control over what happens to property after you die, you may need to create a trust.”
Some specific assets also can’t be included in a will:
- One of the things a will won’t do is care for your pets. Animals can’t inherit your money, but you can leave money — and pets — to someone who has agreed to care for them. You can also set up a pet protection agreement.
- Joint-tenancy properties can’t be transferred. They pass automatically after your death because of legal ownership.
- Funds from payable-on-death accounts, retirement accounts, or life insurance policies that already list a beneficiary can’t be distributed.
- Investment products, such as stocks and bonds that are meant to be transferred to beneficiaries, can’t be listed in your will.
- Care for someone with special needs shouldn’t be mentioned in a will because it will affect their government benefits. Instead, you can create a special needs trust to hold money for his or her care.
Though these assets aren’t covered by a will, different legal documents can be drawn up for many of them.
Can you avoid probate with a will?
After you die, your will goes through probate. Probate is the court-supervised process in which your assets are distributed, and it can oftentimes be time-consuming and expensive. This is in addition to this standard checklist of what to do when someone dies and forms you need to complete after a person dies. To ease the burden on your loved ones, you may be able to help them avoid the probate process through various means.
Why you need advance funeral planning
Having a will is a good starting point to having your affairs in order, but it isn’t always enough to guarantee that all your wishes will be carried out exactly the way that you want after you pass. Wills are generally read after funeral services have already taken place, so any funeral wishes included in the will become irrelevant. Even if the will was read prior to the funeral, the service you describe may be too expensive for your loved ones to afford. Instead of providing funeral arrangements in your will, remember advance funeral planning when financial planning with Preneed Funeral insurance.
Among the many reasons why advance funeral planning makes sense is the ability to plan and pay for your funeral yourself. You sit down with your funeral director and plan out every product and service you want for your funeral. The funeral director tallies up the price of your proposed funeral, and that is how much you pay for your Preneed Funeral insurance policy. You can make a single, one-time payment, or you can choose to pay through premiums. With advance funeral planning, you can have a say in how you are remembered and rest easy knowing that your loved ones won’t have the burden of planning a funeral after your death.
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