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Be careful! Not everything you own should go into your will

You may have heard that you need a will. Without this document, the state of Nevada could decide who inherits your property after your death. This is true, but it also implies that you should make provisions for the distribution of everything you own in your last will and testament.

Unfortunately, that isn't the case. Some of your property can't be distributed through your will for a variety of reasons.

Property you shouldn't include in your will

Certain property will pass to another person "by operation of law," which means that if you add these assets to your will, they will not go to the person named in it. Instead, these assets pass to the person indicated on the title or in beneficiary designation forms, such as:

  • Stocks and bonds with a named beneficiary
  • Property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship
  • Proceeds from your retirement plan
  • Proceeds from your life insurance policy

In addition, if you have a living trust, any property held by that trust also passes to your beneficiary or beneficiaries outside of your will and the probate process.

If you also list these assets in your will, it could cause confusion and hurt feelings among your heirs. Moreover, if you want to change who receives what assets, doing so in your will does not change anything for these assets. You will have wasted your time and disappointed someone you love.

Instructions you shouldn't include in your will

Someone may have also told you that you should make any other wishes you have known in your will or someone else will make the decisions on your behalf. This isn't always a good idea. If you need to name a guardian for minor children, then your will is the appropriate place to do so.

However, if you want to leave instructions regarding your funeral and burial, this is not the place to do it. Ordinarily, by the time family members get around to reviewing your will, the final arrangements have already been made and carried out. Other instructions you probably shouldn't put into your will include the following:

  • Arrangements for persons with special needs
  • Gifts to pets
  • Gifts with certain conditions attached

You may also need to know that the assets subject to distribution through your will do have to go through probate and may be subject to estate taxes. Before finalizing your will, it would be beneficial to do your research and make use of the legal resources available to you.

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