Surprised? It’s true! While each and every person age 18 or older should have a Will, there are some things that a Will cannot do. If you’re like most people, you don’t realize that a Will has absolutely no effect on certain assets. The assets themselves determine what happens to them when you die; your Will does nothing with these assets.
1. Jointly held property is also known as “joint tenancy with right of survivorship.” Immediately upon your death, and automatically by operation of law, the property transfers to the joint owner or owners. If you Will says that your daughter, Meghan, gets the vacation cabin at your death, but you own it jointly with your brother, Bob, Bob gets the vacation cabin at your death. Meghan gets nothing.
2. Property in your Revocable Living Trust is controlled by the Trust not your Will. Only property in your individual name is ruled by your Will. If you make provisions in your Trust that Meghan gets the cabin at your death, but have it titled in the name of your Trust and the trust provisions give the cabin to Bob, then Bob gets the cabin. This is true even if your Will is more recent than the Trust.
3. Life insurance and retirement accounts are contracts. After your death, they go to whomever you named on the beneficiary form. If you named Meghan as the beneficiary, she will receive the insurance proceeds as well as the retirement account. (If you named your estate, then your Will determines who inherits these proceeds.)
4. Stocks and bonds held with a beneficiary designation are not dictated by your Will. At your death, the stocks and bonds will go directly to your designated beneficiary. To change the beneficiary, you must fill out a change of beneficiary form and submit it to your brokerage company. Naming a beneficiary in your Will has no effect.
5. Payable on death (POD) and transfer on death (TOD) accounts are not controlled by your Will. At your death, the accounts go directly to the named beneficiary. Contact your bank if you wish to change the beneficiary of the account. Naming a beneficiary in your Will has no effect.
If you have questions about what property a Will controls, please call our office. We’d be happy to answer your questions. 858-792-5988.