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A will is an incredibly important tool for anyone planning their estate. It is a common misconception that a will is your only option, but it definitely is the most common and traditional option. However, this does raise the question of what a will does not do that one of the alternatives might. While it is the most popular estate planning option, there are a few things that a will simply cannot accommodate. Use this guide to learn what a will can’t do, so you can decide whether it works for you or if you will need to look at another option to satisfy your needs.

What a Will Won’t Do

There are four primary areas where a will falls short. These are:

  1. Administrative and Accounting Requirements – A will must go through a process called probate. This is a period where the court acknowledges the will and takes care of some of the technical requirements. A will also is subject to estate taxation. Some of the alternatives to a will, such as a trust, do not have these same requirements. Probate usually does not last long, but if you want your loved ones to receive your estate as soon as possible, avoiding probate altogether might be appealing.
  2. Funeral Instructions – A will simply is not the right document to provide instructions for how you would like your funeral to be. In fact, a will is usually not addressed until after the funeral has taken place. If you have specific funeral instructions, you should draft a separate document and make sure the executor of your will is aware of it.
  3. Setting Conditions – In a will, you decide who receives what parts of your estate, but you cannot set conditions or instructions. For example, you might want to leave a grandchild a car only if he or she has a driver’s license. Or you may want to leave a nephew a sum of cash to pay for college, but only if he has enrolled. A will does not allow you to do this, but a trust does.
  4. Inclusivity of Property Types – There are some types of property that simply cannot be included in a will. These are very special cases that vary from state to state, but there is a small chance that you will not be able to include a particular possession in your will.