There are many very important uses for wills. However, there are things for which wills were not designed and cannot accomplish. The following are a list of things that can NOT be dealt with in a will:
1. If you own assets in a “joint tenancy” with another individual, or a “tenancy by the entirety” (a marital estate), you cannot dispose of the assets in a will since there are two owners of the assets. If one party dies, the surviving party inherits all of the remaining assets.
2. If you have a life insurance policy with a named beneficiary, you cannot change the beneficiary designation in a will. To change a beneficiary designation, you must contact the life insurance company and fill out a “change of beneficiary” form.
3. Stocks and bonds that have a beneficiary designation, such as transfer upon death (TOD) cannot be bequeathed in a will. To change the beneficiary designation on these types of stocks or bonds, you must contact the security company that holds the security and fill out the appropriate paperwork.
4. Pension plans, 401K plans, 403B plans, IRA’s, SEP’s and other retirement plans that have a named beneficiary cannot be impacted by a will. To change the beneficiary designations, you must contact the administrator of the plan and complete a “change of beneficiary” form. However, if the beneficiaries predecease you or there are no beneficiaries named, you can name a beneficiary for this asset in a will. This also applies to life insurance policies and annuities.
5. Bank accounts that have a “payable on death” feature or a beneficiary designation cannot be devised under a will. For example, if you have a bank account and it says “pay to my daughter Sue”, and you write a will indicating proceeds in that account are to be paid to your son John, the designation in the bank account will control.
6. You cannot leave contingent gifts in a will. An example would be a gift that is contingent upon a person becoming married, divorced or changing his or her religion. However, you can put a clause in a will leaving money to a son to pay for his college education. In the event the son does not go to college, those funds could be used for another purpose.
7. You cannot have a clause in a will that goes against public policy or is illegal. An example of this would be an attempt to leave money in a will for the purpose of buying illegal drugs.
8. You can’t make appropriate arrangements for a child or family member with special needs in a will. A special needs trust is required for this purpose.
9. Wills may not contain clauses that leave assets to pets. For example, you cannot leave $10,000 to your dog Rover. However, you are allowed to leave money to an individual taking care of your dog, or a trust can be set up and funded through your will to pay for such care.