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5 Things You Shouldn't Include in Your Will

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Having a will and other estate plans are essential to ensuring your assets pass on to their intended recipients when you pass on.

However, there are certain provisions that don't belong in your will, as they simply can't be enforced under the law.

Here are five of the most common things you shouldn't include in your will:

1. Funeral Plans.

Although it may seem fun to memorialize your wish to be cremated and turned into a well-cut diamond, your will isn't the best place for burial preferences.

Your body technically isn't property, so it cannot be a part of your estate. You can try to include burial preferences in your will, but because your body isn't under your estate's control, your wishes may not be carried out according to your plan.

A good alternative is to discuss funeral plans ahead of time with your executor and arrange for services to be paid out of your estate -- this can be done in your will. But be wary of pre-paid funeral plans.

2. Your 'Digital Estate.'

If you died today, you would likely leave behind a sizeable amount of "property" in your digital estate. This includes iTunes purchases, eBooks, and items in other cloud-based online accounts.

This area of law is likely to be more sophisticated in the future, but for the moment, your digital bequests are unlikely to be enforceable. You may, however, choose to bequeath your account info and passwords.

3. Jointly Held Property.

Pretty much the defining feature of a joint tenancy is the right of survivorship, meaning that when you or the other joint tenant dies, the survivor automatically owns the property in full. So putting your interest in a joint tenancy in your will is meaningless, as when you die, that interest disappears.

4. Life Insurance and Retirement Funds.

Life insurance and retirement plans require you to designate a beneficiary of the plan upon your death. When you die, the assets associated with your life insurance or retirement fund will immediately transfer to the intended beneficiary, so they can't be distributed by your will.

5. Illegal Gifts and Requests.

You may be literally dying to unload a cache of illicit drugs or to have your relatives burn down a building in honor of your death, but the law frowns upon wills containing those kind of illegal requests.

If you're still puzzled about what (not) to put in your will, contact a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in your area.

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