Most people think that if they have their will written, signed and tucked away someplace safe that they’re done with estate planning.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. That’s one of several common estate planning myths. Here are some important things that you should know about the limitations of a will:
A will won’t control all your assets
Your will only controls the assets that are in your name alone. If, for example, you have a relative listed as co-owner of your bank account in case of emergencies, that relative has the sole right to that money on your death — no matter what your will says.
Part of your estate planning process involves making sure that you have the right beneficiary designations on your insurance policies, pension plans and other assets that are payable upon your death to someone else. Those funds usually bypass the probate process entirely, so your will won’t control them.
Your will won’t address what to do with your earthly remains
Wills don’t typically include instructions on what to do with your body after your death. If you have concrete wishes about how you want things to be handled — burial or cremation, funeral or no funeral — it’s essential to communicate those wishes clearly to your family members and then commit them to writing.
Many funeral homes offer prepaid packages that allow people to plan their own services in advance. Not only does that reduce the burden on your loved ones after your death, it also eliminates the potential for controversy between family members who differ on their idea of what should be done to show their respects.
A will doesn’t address the possible “what if” scenarios
What if you are injured or incapacitated and unable to direct your own medical care or financial affairs? Your will doesn’t address these concerns at all. For that, you need powers of attorney that give someone of your choosing the right to act on your behalf.
A health care directive (living will) is also valuable for these situations because it provides written guidance regarding your wishes — including when you want medical treatment discontinued — if you can’t speak for yourself.
Don’t assume that a will is all that it takes to get your affairs in order. Talk to a professional about comprehensive estate planning that will actually accomplish your goals.