When you are creating your estate plan, you might think that you should just include all of your assets into your will. That isn’t always the best option because some assets aren’t appropriate to include in a will. If you include certain items in the will, you might make the probate process more difficult for your heirs.
Assets, such as insurance policies, retirement accounts and financial accounts, are some of the assets you shouldn’t include in a will under most circumstances. When you opened those accounts or began the policy, you might have designated a beneficiary or signed a transfer on death clause. If you did either of those, there is no need to include that asset in your will because you have already issued instructions for how the asset should be handled when you die.
The same is true for assets that are jointly owned with the right of survivorship. In this case, the asset will automatically go to the other asset holder. If that asset holder is no longer living, it will go to the “title on death,” if one is listed, when you pass away.
If you used trusts to handle some of your assets, you don’t have to include those trusts in the will. The assets in the trust would be divided and distributed according to the trust’s instructions.
When you are going over your assets, you should make sure you fully understand how to handle each one in your estate plan. Improper planning or incomplete instructions can mean a lengthy court process that can be costly for your heirs.
Source: Fidelity, “Probate for Inheritances,” accessed Aug. 05, 2015