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It’s Your Will… But You Still Can’t Say What You Like

There are some things that can’t – or shouldn’t – be included in a will. There are various reasons for this, some of which are legal ones, some a common sense ones, and some are simply because you cannot instruct someone to do something that is against their will (and/or against the law).

Although your last will and testament is your own personal document, allowing you to decide who will receive what from your estate, it should not necessarily be used as a way to send final messages. There are other ways to do this, including letters and notes for your solicitor.

In your will, you cannot leave a property that is in joint tenancy to someone not named on the lease. This is because when you die, the person who shares the joint tenancy with you will automatically receive your share of the property (even if your will says otherwise). The same is true for a trust, or for life insurance that has a named beneficiary – these are legal items and your will does not take precedence over them if you name someone different.

It is also a good idea not to put funeral instructions in your will. Although this might seem like the perfect place to write them down, often wills are not read until after the funeral, which is the first item to organise once a person has died. Because of this, important last wishes could be missed. Therefore, it is better to discuss with your family and friends exactly what you want at your funeral, and perhaps to leave a note with your executor so that your final goodbye will be exactly as you hoped.

Although it is possible to put conditions on bequests, if they are illegal, or if they mean that the beneficiary must marry a particular person (or divorce their current spouse), or change their religion will not be enforced. And you must bear in mind that, although you might have put these provisions on a gift (ie that the money must be used for a specific use), no one is able to ensure that this actually happens.

Arranging special care for someone through your will is not ideal. The best way to do this is through a trust, which means that the required money will be specifically set aside.

Finally, you cannot leave gifts to a pet in your will, as they are not legally able to own anything. Instead, you can ensure that you leave the care of the pet (and possibly some money with which to do it) to a specific person. A trust fund could also be used for this purpose.

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