What a Will Can and Cannot Do

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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.