Unusual wills: Can I include unconventional requests in my will?

If you’re considering writing out your last will and testament, congratulations! You’re making a sound decision that will help your family in their time of loss. If you are thinking about putting some unconventional requests in your will, you may need to examine the potential pros and cons to ensure your wishes are actually carried out. A Fairfax wills and trusts attorney can discuss your desires and educate you on the right steps to take. unusual wills

What are some examples of unusual wills?

For hundreds of years, individuals have written unusual last wills and testaments to amuse themselves, get revenge, or simply prevent their money from landing in the wrong hands. For example, Henry Budd despised mustaches so much that when he died in 1852, his will dictated that neither of his sons could grow one after his death. If one did, they would forfeit their inheritance to the other. Hotelier Leona Helmsley famously left $12 million to her dog Trouble, who lived a life of luxury until her own death. Helmsley snubbed most of her family, putting her brother in charge of caring for the pooch. When Trouble passed away, the remainder of the fortune reverted to Helmsley’s charitable trusts. In modern times, many stipulations such as these would be successfully challenged in court and overturned. The goal for an unusual will today is to reflect your wishes without leaving room for legal confusion or challenge. A skilled estate planning attorney can explain your options and ensure your last will and testament is sound and binding.

What can’t I put in my will?

While you can put almost anything in your will that isn’t illegal, the fact of the matter is that your heirs may have the right to contest it in probate court. If the distribution of financial holdings or property seems too unusual such that it could call into question your competency at the time you signed the Will, it could set off legal battles that tie up the estate for years until they reach a compromise. You also have to consider that in the event a will is successfully challenged, state laws may dictate who inherits your estate and how much each person receives. This court ruling may overshadow how you intend for your assets to be given out. The safest way to ensure each person inherits what you want for them to have is to work with an experienced estate planning lawyer. Above all else, you should avoid trying to go the DIY route for creating a will online. While it may seem like a cost-effective way to record exactly what you wish to happen, these cookie-cutter forms will rarely stand up to legal challenges from disgruntled relatives. There’s no guarantee the website will have updated information on statutes and rulings that could affect your choices.

Can you cut someone out of your will?

Yes and no. If you try to disinherit your spouse, most states have laws prohibiting this action. For example, the Code of Virginia § 64.2-308.3 states that spouses are eligible for up to half of the marital estate, even if you leave them out of your will. They will file an action against this disinheritance to recover what they are owed since the Commonwealth views marriage as an economic partnership. With that in mind, cutting a spouse out of your will is similar to dissolving a business partnership. You would need to compensate them for their portion of the company. If you wish to leave nothing to your spouse, you’ll need to get them to sign a waiver. Alternatively, you could include this stipulation in a pre-nuptial agreement prior to getting married. When it comes to leaving children out of your will, you can do so, but the language needs to be carefully drafted to avoid a will contest. Grandchildren and other relatives can simply be omitted from the will to prevent them from receiving anything. It’s up to you whether you state this explicitly in the document or not.

Why is it important to have an estate planning lawyer help you?

We’ve already talked about how relatives can turn hurt feelings into lawsuits and prevent your heirs from receiving what you wanted them to have. It’s valuable to have an estate planning lawyer because they can introduce you to a wide range of planning tools, such as trusts, gifts, and joint ownership. Every person’s circumstances are unique. You deserve an estate plan that reflects your wishes for more than just the music selection for your funeral or a desire for your pet to be taken care of when you’re gone. While you may think you need a will, you may find you would benefit from creating a living trust or gifting part of your assets to your children throughout your lifetime. The instruments used to plan your estate can bring tax reductions and other benefits before you die, allowing you to still use and enjoy your assets before handing them down. When it’s time for others to take ownership, your attorney will have crafted a document that ensures each beneficiary receives what you planned.

Still have questions? Contact Select Law Partners PLLC

If you have an unusual request you want to include in your will, it’s important to be educated on what is possible within your state. While you definitely can cut some people out of your will or request they hold an annual seance in your honor, like Harry Houdini, you need to understand how to make that happen without the risk of legal backlash. Schedule a consultation with us by calling (855) 541-4867 or using our online form today.

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