There is a reason why the will is one of the most common estate planning tools out there: for many people, this document accomplishes many of their goals. That being said, it is a mistake to assume that your will is your “catch-all” estate planning document.  There are several things that a will cannot do. Many people ultimately use a will in conjunction with other documents to ensure that all of their goals have been planned for properly. Read on to learn more about some of the common misconceptions about wills.

Leave Behind Particular Pieces of Property

It’s a myth that you can easily dispose of every kind of property in a will. You cannot use your will to outline how you’ll move property already inside a living trust, property held in what’s known as “joint tenancy” with another person, funds from a life insurance policy for which you have already identified a beneficiary, funds inside a payable-on-death bank account, or money inside pension plans or other retirement funds for which you have already named a beneficiary.

Avoid Probate Entirely

Property left under the terms of a will can still be caught up in the probate process.  This means many months may pass after your death before your intended beneficiaries receive the property you intend to leave them.  Consulting with an Arizona estate planning attorney will help you know whether or not you have circumstances or property types that could cause problems.

Outline Funeral Instructions

While it might seem to make sense to include these details with your other end-of-life documents such as a will, your will might not even be discovered until weeks after you pass away. Additionally, you may have private things to include in funeral instructions that you may not want to make known in a public document like a will.  To avoid these problems, you should consider leaving behind a separate document outlining your wishes for your funeral service or matters relating to your burial. Make sure that a loved one or appointed representative knows where to find this information as well.

Arrange for Special Needs Care

If you are responsible for an individual with special needs, you should consult directly with an Arizona estate planning attorney.  The legal aspects of care for these individuals are often complex and typically extend well beyond the simple planning of a will. For example, many individuals with special needs are  well served by a special needs trust.   Consult with an attorney about the best way to help a loved one with special needs.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding What a Will Can’t Do for You, or any other estate planning matters, please feel free to contact Stephen L. West at 480.461.5341,or Curtis M. Chipman at 480.461.5329. You can also log on to,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.