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Not all property can be covered by a will

When people tell you to write a will, they'll often suggest that you should at least have a document saying you leave everything that you own to your children, or something similar. While this can be helpful, it's important to note that such general wills aren't always the best way to go because all of your property may not be covered by the will.

For example, do you own property with someone else, as joint tenants? If so, due to the rights of survivorship, the other owner is going to get complete control after you pass away. It may not matter what your will says if the rights automatically pass on in this fashion.

Another thing to consider is that financial accounts with beneficiaries also go directly to those who are named, regardless of what your will states. For example, if you have a life insurance policy that pays out to your ex-spouse--perhaps you got it while you were married and forget to update it when you got divorced--the payment still goes to your ex, even if your will says you want to leave everything to your children. The same can be true for some retirement accounts.

The key is to make sure you look for anything that is impacted by this type of law and change that when writing your will. You can update a life insurance policy, for example, so that it goes to your kids along with everything else, but you have to update both documents. Just the will won't get it done. Make sure you know exactly how this works in New York.

Source: The Motley Fool, "How to Write a Last Will: 5 Tips You Should Know," Dan Caplinger, accessed April 12, 2016

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