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What can't I include in my will?

The will is a fundamental part of most estate plans. A good will can make the testator's final wishes clear to his or her survivors after the end comes.

Just about every type of financial or personal property can be included in a will. But not everything associated with an estate plan should be part of the document. Some things are not appropriate for inclusion, while other things are best handled separately.

For instance, though the testator may put certain conditions on gifts if he or she chooses, you cannot instruct beneficiaries to use their gifts for illegal purposes. For example, you cannot leave money to someone, but only if they use it to grow marijuana in a state where doing so is against the law. Also, you cannot use conditions to force a beneficiary to get married or divorced, or convert to another religion.

When attaching conditions to gifts in your will, consider whether they are necessary, and who will enforce the conditions.

Some testators want their funerals to include certain rituals or features, and include those instructions in their will. This is a mistake. It is okay to leave instructions for your funeral, of course, but usually, the will is not read until after the service. So, relatives may not learn your wishes until it is too late. A separate document would be useful here.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help clients make their wishes a reality, without including improper or unnecessary provisions that could complicate matters.

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