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What a Will Can and Cannot Do

Wills Lawyer

If you are planning your estate, you probably know that the main option you have is a will. This is not your only option, however. Before you decide whether or not you want to use one of the alternatives, you should know what a will can and cannot do. There are actually a few things that an alternative can do that a will cannot. You should know, however, that it is always recommended to have a will. You may want an alternative in addition to your will.

What Your Will Can Do

A will is a legal document that describes what your wishes are for after you have died. The primary functions of a will are:

  • Determine who receives your possessions
  • Set a new guardian for underage children
  • Name an executor for your will

The first function is the best-known. A will determines who will receive the contents of your estate. You can decide to give certain possessions to specific individuals and divide your estate up in any way you wish.

Secondly, your will establishes who will become the new guardian of any children you have who are still minors. Most of the time, someone’s spouse will become the new guardian. However, you should also designate who will be the guardian in the event that you and your spouse die at the same time. Your will can also give instructions for any pets you have.

Finally, your will names an executor. Every will needs to have an executor who will ensure it is carried out as accurately as possible. If you do not name an executor, the courts will choose someone for you. However, leaving this out of your will extends the probate period unnecessarily.

What Your Will Cannot Do

It is important to recognize the limitations of your will. Your will cannot:

  • Set conditions on your possessions
  • Establish funeral instructions

If you wish to set conditions on your possessions, you are better off using a trust. For example, with a trust you could specify that your granddaughter would receive your car if she has a driver’s license at the time. That is a condition you would not be able to set with a will.

Secondly, your will cannot establish what your funeral wishes are. You need a separate legal document for that, although your will can mention this separate document to ensure that your executor knows about it.

A wills and trusts lawyer in Chandler, AZ can help you better understand all your options. It is always a good idea to speak with a legal professional.


Thanks to Citadel Law Firm for their insight into estate planning and what a will can do.

Understanding the Limitations of a Will

Wills Lawyer

Most people understand what a will does. It is a legal document primarily used for determining who will receive your possessions after your death. A will also has a few other legal uses which make it important for everyone to have a will. However, there are a few limitations that wills have. If you understand what a will cannot do, you can know when an alternative might be better suited to your needs. This short guide will go over what you should not expect your will to do.

Setting Conditions

Your will cannot set any conditions on passing on your possessions. The will can only specify who receives what. It may be desirable to set conditions. For example, you could leave your grandson $1,000 if he is unmarried or $5,000 if he is married as an extra present. This example would be completely impossible with a will.

If you wish to set conditions on your possessions, you may be better of using a trust instead. A trust is essentially an agreement where you transfer your possessions to a trustee, who will then transfer them to your loved ones at the time of your death. In fact, the primary advantage a trust offers over a will is the ability to set conditions.

Funeral Arrangements

Another big thing that wills cannot do is establish what your funeral wishes are. This is actually a common misconception and many people assume that a will can do this. If you include your funeral wishes in your will, it will carry no legal weight and your wishes may not be followed.

If you want to specify a certain kind of funeral ceremony, you need a separate legal document dedicated specifically for this purpose. It is a good idea, however, to mention this other document in your will. It will largely be the responsibility of the executor of your will to make sure your funeral wishes are followed. By mentioning this other document in your will, it guarantees that the executor is aware of it and will follow it.

Setting up your estate is not as hard as you might think. The first thing you should do is speak with an estate planning lawyer in Chandler, AZ. A legal professional who specializes in estate planning will be able to explain all your options to you, as well as give advice on how to accomplish exactly what you hope to do with your estate, whether it can be done with just a will or multiple different options together.


Thanks to Citadel Law Firm for their insight into estate planning and the limitations of a will.