What A Will Cannot Do

Estate Planning Lawyer

While your will likely serves as your foundation legal document that passes your property and assets to your heirs after your death, there are some things your will cannot do.

Perhaps most importantly, your will cannot pass the following types of property:

  • Real estate you own else in joint tenancy with right of survivorship or in tenancy by the entirety with someone else
  • Other joint assets, such as joint bank accounts
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Personal assets, such as a vehicle, on which you have placed a payable on death or transfer on death designation
  • Retirement accounts, pensions or 401(K)s that have a beneficiary designation
  • Assets you have placed in trust prior to your death

All of the above will pass directly to the joint owner or named beneficiary after your death.

Your will also cannot pass your property or assets directly to your minor children or to your pet(s). All states have laws precluding property ownership by minors and animals. Your will can, however, establish trusts for the benefit of your minor children or the care of your pet(s). It can also designate who you want to have custody of your minor children and pets and manage their respective trust monies.

Unreasonable Conditions

While your will can place conditions on the bequests you leave to various of your heirs, the court may well void such a bequest under the following circumstances:

  • It is impossible to fulfill.
  • It is too vague.
  • It encourages the heir to commit a crime.
  • It requires the heir to marry a specific person.
  • It requires the heir to divorce his or her spouse.
  • It requires the heir to relinquish his or her parental rights to one or more of his or her children.
  • It requires the heir to change his or her religion.
  • It requires the heir to do something the court considers against public policy.

Court Discretion

The court likewise has discretion to disallow other conditional bequests your will provides for, such as the following:

  • Your designated heir cannot comply with the condition through no fault of his or her own.
  • You, your executor or another interested party prevented your designated heir from complying with the condition.
  • Your designated heir fulfilled the condition, but not within the time frame your will specified.
  • The court determines that you put the condition in your will only to punish the designated heir.

Obtaining Legal Advice

Given the importance of your will, not only to you, but also to your heirs, your wisest strategy is to seek the advice and counsel of a will lawyer from a law firm like Yee Law Group, PC  to help you make one.