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What should I not include in my will?

The purpose of a will is to specify who will receive your property and assets when you pass away. Many people in Ohio, however, may be surprised to learn that certain properties or holdings actually should not be or cannot be included in a will. This is because specific properties are accompanied by their own rules that govern what happens to them after the owner dies.

Findlaw describes certain properties and assets that should not be listed in a will. Property listed in a living trust, for example, cannot be willed to another person because the trust already delegates who the property goes to after the owner's death. A will cannot override the terms of a trust. Property in a trust is under the jurisdiction of a trustee and when you die, the property shifts to the ownership of the beneficiaries while the trustee oversees the implementation of the terms of the trust. If you wish to change the terms of your trust, you would have to do it through the trust and not through a will.

Similarly, you cannot use your will to describe what should happen to a property you own with another person through a joint tenancy. In a joint tenancy, the co-owner who survives the death of the other owner will automatically receive the assets under law. Even if your will lists a change in ownership for the joint tenancy assets, those wishes will be overruled by the terms of the joint tenancy.

Additionally, financial or insurance plans that require you to establish a beneficiary should not be included in a will. These include your life insurance proceeds that include beneficiaries, as well as bonds and stocks that are held for a beneficiary, and also a bank account that pays out upon your death. Furthermore, you cannot dictate what happens to proceeds from a retirement plan, like your 401(k), IRA or pension in your will. Any of these plans have their own forms that you can list a beneficiary on.

This article is intended to educate the reader on what cannot be included in a will and should not be taken as legal advice.

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