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Should I Include My House in My Will?

Apr 15, 2022 | Estate Planning Legal Blogs | Elder Law P.A

When people make a will, the tendency is to list all their assets so that everything will be covered for the beneficiaries after the decedent’s death. In general, assets stated in a will include cars, cash, investments, household furnishings, jewelry, and money in the bank that isn’t included in a joint account. Should I include my house in my will? Many people include their home, but the question is, do all the assets, including a home, need to be included in a will? Estate lawyers say that making a will is a good idea, but they do not recommend that all property be included in the will.

What Assets Should Not be Included in a Will?

Should I include my house in a will? Should I have a property will? First, there are already laws that govern the distribution of certain assets after death, and, therefore, these assets should not be included in a will. The most common assets that are subject to established laws outside of a will include the following:

  1. Your home holds a right of survivorship. This means that your home is community property with joint tenancy or tenancy by entirety. After your death, the community property will automatically be passed on to the co-owner. Therefore, whether you write it in the will or not, your community property will automatically be transferred to your spouse and/or children.
  2. Any property listed in a living trust. In general, a living trust is created to ease the transfer of any property or assets following the death of the decedent. In addition, property held in a living trust usually bypasses probate. Hence, the beneficiaries listed in the living trust automatically receive any property or assets held in the trust following the death of the decedent. The terms stated in the revocable trust can always be altered while you are alive.
  3. Life insurance or earnings of an annuity. In general, when one makes a life insurance policy, a beneficiary is usually stated in the policy. At the time of the decedent’s death, these assets automatically transfer to the beneficiary.
  4. Pensions, retirement plans, 401Ks, and IRAs are managed similarly to a life insurance policy. They usually have a beneficiary named who receives the assets after the death of the decedent.
  5. Joint businesses should not be listed in your will without consent from the other co-owners.

An individual may open a “payable on death” bank account and state the name of the beneficiary. When he or she dies, the money from this bank account will automatically be transferred to the beneficiary listed.

Similarly, one can also stipulate “transfer on death” to other assets, like bonds, stocks, vehicles, or even real estate, which are then automatically passed on to the beneficiary upon the death of the decedent.

What Assets Should You Include in a Will?

Should I include my house in my will? Do I need a property will? You may be confused about why there is a need to make a will at all when a significant number of assets automatically transfer to the named beneficiary because of the laws even in the absence of a will. The simplest answer is that any asset you have that is not included in the above list should be listed in your will. Even though it may seem like a lot of scenarios are covered, there are still plenty of issues that aren’t automatically covered. This is the reason why you need a will.

  1. Money to pay for your funeral: One of the most important items that should be stated in your will is the money allotted to pay for your funeral. You have to make it clear where that money should come from. In addition, you can also state that you want the money to pay for probate costs and any other debt, such as medical expenses, that you may have accumulated. State clearly from where this money should be obtained. For example, you can state that the money in your checking account will go towards the cost of your funeral and probate. If you don’t have enough financial resources in your estate, then the beneficiary may elect to pay for the funeral costs from your individual retirement account(s), etc.
  2. Jewelry: If you own valuable jewelry, it should be included in your will. Clearly state which pieces of jewelry go where so that there are no arguments after your death.
  3. Business: If you own any type of business, it should be stated in your will. You should clearly define the assets in the business, their rough value, and the beneficiaries to ensure a smooth transition.
  4. Cash: If you have ample cash at home or in the bank (both checking and savings accounts) and if there is no “payable upon death” designee, then you can state the cash in your will and which of your beneficiaries should be the recipients. Clearly state how much each beneficiary should get to avoid arguments.
  5. Other physical assets: Assets, such as an art collection, stamp collection, paintings, exotic furniture, sports memorabilia, etc., should be listed in the will. Make it absolutely clear who should get what.
  6. Pets: Many people in North America love their pets more than humans and want them to be cared for after their death. If you want your pet to go to a loving home after your death, think about who the best person would be to keep your wishes and look after the pet. Have a conversation with that person; the last thing you want is to give your pet to your son and he later gives it away to the animal society after your death. As well, you don’t want someone with financial problems to be burdened with your pet; you want someone who will love and care for your pet as much as you did.

Should I Put My Home in a Trust?

Some people elect to put their home in a trust, which is essentially a legal transaction that permits you to place your assets, money, and other possessions so that they can be distributed to your heirs after your death. A trust is a good idea for all people, whether rich or poor. The one advantage of a trust is that it permits greater control of the assets compared to a will. Further, unlike a will, a trust can also provide instructions on when and how the beneficiaries will receive the assets. If you have certain assets that you want to be passed along to your heirs, a trust may be a good idea. But should you put your home in a trust? Many people do because the assets in a trust do not go through probate. Like a will, however, your primary home (your homestead in Florida) is automatically transferred to your spouse or children according to state joint tenancy laws and no matter what you state in the trust, the state laws will override the trust.

Making A Will

Should I put my house in my will? Should I make a property will? If making a will sounds too confusing, the best advice is to speak to an estate lawyer for advice and help. These professionals can assist you in creating a will that is valid and ensures that your estate goes to the chosen beneficiaries without hassles. Remember, life is very unpredictable, so make your will today to ensure that all your wishes will be carried out accordingly.

No matter how you choose to draft your will, the most important thing is that you get started as soon as possible. Doing so can give you and your family the peace of mind of knowing that your wishes will be followed after you’re gone. Elder Law, P.A. specializes in wills and trusts, among other matters of the law, and they work especially for seniors. They are compassionate and will work with you to ensure your needs and desires are fulfilled. Call them today at 1-561-933-5077.

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