Writing a last will and testament is a vital part of estate planning, but even so, it is not capable of handling every issue that may arise after you pass away. For various reasons, the law may not recognize some parts of your will, which is why any Pennsylvania resident should be aware of what they cannot do in their wills and what the alternatives are.
As Nerdwallet explains, people cannot make funeral plans in their wills. A funeral needs to be planned separately from a will because wills are usually not even read until after the funeral has taken place. So if you try to make your funeral wishes known in your will, odds are your plans may not even be discovered until the funeral is over with.
Also, wills do not override beneficiary designations you have set up on accounts that pay out. If you name a spouse on an insurance policy and get divorced, you have to change the beneficiary designation on the insurance, otherwise your ex-spouse will receive the policy payout. You cannot count on changing that designation through your will alone. The same is true if you want to change heirs you have named on trusts or retirement accounts.
Wills also cannot be used to place conditions on how to convey your assets and property to your heirs and how your heirs are to use them. Some parents want to make sure their children use their inheritance for things like a college education or for a new home. If you want to place requirements on how your children or other beneficiaries are to use money or assets, you would need to create a trust.
Many people have pets and want to make provision for them. However, pets are not legally able to own property, so you cannot leave assets to your pet in a will. You could instead designate someone to be a guardian for your pet in your will. You can also leave the new guardian assets to help care for the pet. Some people also set up trusts for their pets.
Finally, the simple fact that you have made a will does not avoid certain processes. You may have to count on your will going through probate. The most many wills can accomplish is to speed the probate process along. Also, wills do not eliminate estate taxes. Your heirs will still have to deal with taxes levied on your estate. However, some trusts do avoid taxation, so establishing a trust is one possible option.
This information is intended to educate readers on estate planning and administration issues. Do not take it as legal advice.