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What a Will Doesn't Cover: Pets, Funeral Arrangements, Digital Assets and More

By Allison Kade Aug 24, 2023

In this article

Care for Your Pets After You're Gone

Your Preferences Regarding Funeral Arrangements

Your Values and Ethics

Your Digital Assets

Avoiding Probate Hiccups If You're Transgender

Key Documents to Have Alongside Your Last Will and Testament

What Kinds of Property Aren't Controlled by a Will?

A will is a powerful document: It dictates who should get your assets if you were to pass away, and who should take care of your children. When you write your last will and testament, you'll get to state your wishes on this and more.

Of course, when it comes to understanding how a will works, it's worth remembering that there are some limits. We'll explain some of the things a will doesn't cover and special situations to be alert for.

Care for Your Pets After You're Gone

Your last will and testament should address any provisions you need for your own situation. If you have any pets, especially ones with long lifespans (a horse, for example), you might consider including instructions. When writing a will, you might note who should take care of your animals after you die.

You cannot, however, designate an animal as your beneficiary. If you want to leave money specifically for your pets, you can request that a certain portion of your assets be set aside from your will, but this may be unenforceable. Another option is to create a pet trust. Explore the options for including your pet in your estate planning to figure out what's the best path for you.

Your Preferences Regarding Funeral Arrangements

Alongside your last will and testament, you can include a document stating your wishes regarding funeral arrangements. Do you have a preference on where your funeral should be held? Who should officiate? What kind of ceremony it should be? The average funeral costs somewhere around $7,000. Where do you expect the money to come from? (Here are some ways to plan for your own final expenses.)

Your wishes may not be legally binding: If you say you want everyone to dance to a specific song or hold your ceremony at a specific venue, your loved ones will presumably do their best to honor your wishes. That said, it isn't likely that a judge will step in to dictate that everyone must dance the YMCA.

Your Values and Ethics

Your will obviously can't dictate that your kids lead an ethical life or continue to practice the same religion you do. But there are ways you can let your family know what is important to you, in the hopes that they'll continue to take guidance from you even after you're gone.

One way is to pass down an ethical will, or a document that contains what you want your next of kin to know about you as a person, the traditions you hope they maintain and the morals you want them to cherish when you're gone and more.

Your Digital Assets

If you were to pass away, what do you want to happen to your Facebook account? Does your spouse know the password to your laptop?

If you have particular wishes regarding your digital assets, you can include these instructions when writing a will. For example, you might tell your executor to close certain accounts or destroy specific files. Of course, you’ll need to provide your usernames and passwords to help him or her pull this off.

A simple will template may not prompt you to include these provisions, but your last will and testament, or a supplemental document that you include with your estate documents, can include any instructions you think are important.

Avoiding Probate Hiccups If You're Transgender

If you’re transgender, make sure your will reflects your identity properly. If not, any conflicting pronouns could be considered a discrepancy and make it harder to execute your last will and testament.

On a similar note, here’s what you should know about applying for life insurance if you’re transgender.

Key Documents to Have Alongside Your Last Will and Testament

Filling out your last will and testament form is essential, but it’s not the only document you’re likely to need. You might also think about: 

  • An advanced health care directive or medical power of attorney: This names someone you trust to make decisions about your health (would you want to be on life support?) if you’re not able to do so yourself.

  • Living will: Similarly, a living will records your wishes for your medical care if you become incapacitated. Are you religiously opposed to blood transfusions? Do you have specific rules you’d like your caretakers to follow?

  • Durable power of attorney: A durable power of attorney names someone to manage your finances if you’re incapacitated and can’t do so yourself.

What Kinds of Property Aren't Controlled by a Will?

A will is, in a sense, a catch-all for your personal property and estate. That said, some kinds of assets skip probate and are generally not governable by a will. That includes:

  • Life insurance benefits (here's more on how life insurance interacts with a will)

  • Money in a retirement account like a 401(k) or a pension plan

  • Annuities

  • Property held in a trust

  • A home you own jointly with your spouse

Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.

Fabric by Gerber Life exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.

Information provided is general and educational in nature and is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, financial, legal, or tax advice. Laws of a specific state or laws relevant to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. We make no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use, and disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, the information.

Fabric by Gerber Life offers a mobile experience for people on-the-go who want an easy and fast way to purchase life insurance.

Written by

Allison Kade

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