What a Will Can and Can’t Do

Jan 24, 2024 | Legacy & Estate Planning

Without an updated will, your loved ones could face legal battles, property delays, and even family feuds. Discover how this simple document can bring peace of mind, save money, and avoid drama after you’re gone, and educate yourself about other estate planning tools that may be necessary to provide more comprehensive protection for your legacy.

Hi, I’m Brad Tatar, Senior Vice President and Wealth Advisor at GreenUp Wealth Management. In this video, we’ll talk about an important estate planning document called a will and discuss what it can and cannot do. Let’s look at a couple of examples of famous musicians who either died without a will or without a proper will and the negative consequences that followed.

Prince died in 2016 without a will. At least 11 people tried to claim a right to Prince’s estate, including a woman who claimed to be his long-lost daughter, a man who claimed to be his son, and a woman who claimed to be his wife. Six years and several lawsuits later, courts ultimately ruled in favor of Prince’s six siblings who reached an agreement to divide the estate.

And then there’s Aretha Franklin, who died in 2018. Two handwritten wills were discovered in a locked cabinet, and a third will written on a legal pad was found behind a sofa cushion in her home several months later. The legal validity of all three wills was disputed by some of Franklin’s family members. Four years after the Queen of Soul passed away, her sons finally reached an agreement to divide the estate evenly.

Not having a will, or not having a legally valid will, can be a problem for anyone’s estate, even if they’re not a famous musician. A will is a legal document that outlines a person’s wishes for how their property and assets should be distributed after their death.

In a will, a person can specify who will inherit their assets and property, including real estate, financial accounts, and personal belongings, name an executor who will manage the distribution of their assets and ensure their wishes are carried out, designate a guardian for their minor children, make charitable donations, and specify any funeral or burial wishes.

To be valid, a will must be executed in accordance with state law and signed by the person making the will, known legally as the testator, and witnesses who are not beneficiaries of the will. A will can be changed or updated at any time during a person’s life, as long as they have the legal capacity to do so. While a will is an important tool in estate planning, there are some limitations that should be taken into consideration. Here are some of those key limitations of a will.

Probate: A will must go through probate, which is a court-supervised process of administering an estate. This process can be time-consuming, expensive, and public, and it can delay the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.

Limited control: A will only controls assets that are in the testator’s name alone and do not pass directly to the beneficiaries outside of probate, such as assets held in a trust, joint accounts, or assets with beneficiary designations.

Disputes: A will can be challenged in court by disgruntled beneficiaries or family members who claim that the will is invalid or that they were improperly excluded from the estate. This can lead to costly and time-consuming legal battles.

Tax Implications: A will may not be sufficient to minimize the estate taxes of larger estates. Other estate planning tools such as trusts and gifting strategies may minimize tax liabilities.

Incapacity: A will does not provide any protection in the event of the testator’s incapacity or disability. Other estate planning tools, such as a durable power of attorney and healthcare directive may be necessary to ensure that the testator’s wishes are carried out in the event of incapacity.

A will is an important component of estate planning. but it’s not always sufficient on its own. Other estate planning tools such as trusts, beneficiary designations, and gifting strategies may be necessary to provide more comprehensive protection and control over one’s assets. Consult with your GreenUp Wealth Advisor to develop an estate plan that’s tailored to your individual needs and goals.

I’m Brad Tatar. Thanks for watching!


  • Brad Tatar

    Senior Vice President | Wealth Advisor | Tampa, FL -- For over 15 years, Brad has specialized in working with clients who are in or nearing retirement by taking a holistic view and developing and implementing plans to reach their goals and objectives. Prior to joining GreenUp Wealth Management, Brad served as a managing director for a registered investment advisor as well as having worked for some of the country’s largest broker-dealers. Brad began his career in financial services with Scottrade, Inc. in 2006, where he learned the importance of understanding a client’s needs and developed a passion for providing complex guidance and financial planning. As a Certified Financial Planning candidate, Brad’s expertise is working with clients to review their retirement, insurance, tax, and estate planning needs and creating an investment strategy that aligns with their unique goals. For over 15 years, Brad has specialized in working with clients who are in or nearing retirement by taking a holistic view and developing and implementing plans to reach their goals and objectives.

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