Many people consider a will the most important document in an estate plan. However, a variety of other documents could also prove useful to you, depending on your specific circumstances, especially since a will cannot cover every aspect of your estate. Nonetheless, you will also likely benefit from creating a will in order to ensure that you fully complete your estate plans.
In order to determine what other documents may help you plan, you may first wish to understand what you should leave out of your will.
Certain property does not qualify for inclusion in your will due to other rules that relate to that property. In many cases, these assets already have designations for distribution after your death. For example, joint tenancy property passes directly to your joint tenant in the event of your death.
Additionally, accounts that have named beneficiaries do not go into a will. Life insurance proceeds, retirement plan proceeds, stocks and payable-on-death bank accounts typically all have beneficiaries named directly to them. You may name or change the beneficiaries yourself, but, because the designations already exist, you do not need to add that information to your will.
Though you may have certain wishes for how your funeral should proceed, putting those instructions in your will may not prove useful. Because probate proceedings typically occur after the funeral, your wishes may go unknown until the funeral has already occurred. Therefore, you may wish to discuss your arrangements directly with your loved ones or utilize other documents that include your funeral plans.
Assets in trusts
If you hope to keep certain assets out of the probate process, you may place that property into a trust. However, because these assets coincide with the trustees and beneficiaries associated with the trust, addressing the property in your will becomes moot. Rather, you should ensure that you feel confident with your decisions regarding the named beneficiaries and trustees on those accounts.
Instructions for special needs care
If you have a loved one with special needs who may need care after your death, you likely want to ensure that arrangements for that care have been made. However, your will may prove an ineffective place for such arrangement details. Instead, you may wish to set up a special needs trust or other account or document to make the care plans clear.
You could address property or other details that fall outside of these categories in your will. If you have concerns about these categories and other documents that could help bolster your estate plan, you may wish to speak with a Maryland attorney who could offer sound insight into what documents may work best for your wishes.