What Not to Include in Your Will in Pennsylvania | What to Know

Some elements of your wishes should be left out of your will. Continue reading to learn more and reach out to our experienced Montgomery County, PA wills, trusts & estates attorneys to discuss what not to include in your will.

What should I avoid putting in my will?

There are a number of things you should be sure to leave out of your will. Some of them include the following:

1. Trust property. A trust is a different entity that can be used to allocate your assets. Because the trust functions on its own, it is key to avoid inconsistencies and not to put anything in your will that the trust will manage and distribute on its own terms. Trusts are a common estate planning option that avoids probate. When you title property into the trust, it becomes subject to the trust’s rules, which are laid out in the trust document and not the will.

2. Assets with named beneficiaries. Some assets and financial accounts are payable or transferable on death. They are allocated or paid out instantly to the named beneficiaries, which makes putting them in a will not necessary. You can, however, include information about these assets in your letter of instruction.

Rather than putting these assets in your will, give them beneficiary designations instead:

  • Bank accounts
  • Brokerage or investment accounts
  • Retirement accounts and pension plans
  • A life insurance policy

3. Jointly-owned property. Property that is jointly owned with another individual will almost always instantly pass to the co-owner after you die, which is why you should avoid putting this in your will. For instance, if you and your sibling own stocks in a jointly owned brokerage account, then they will continue to own the account and its investments after you pass away. This arrangement is called joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.

4. Conditional gifts and bequests. In a will, you can be explicit about who receives what, however, if you attach certain conditions, it may not work since no one can legally enforce the terms so you should leave these kinds of wishes out when writing a will. If you have clear details about how someone should use their inheritance, whether they are a spendthrift or someone with special needs, it is in your best interest to open a trust that can give you more control over your beneficiaries, even from after you pass away.

If you are interested in learning more about what you should leave out of your will, do not hesitate to reach out to our skilled estate planning attorneys today.


Friedman Schuman is an experienced and dedicated legal resource for clients throughout Pennsylvania. We proudly serve clients facing a wide range of legal matters. If you require the services of an effective attorney, please contact Friedman Schuman today to schedule a consultation.

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