9 Things You Should Never Include In Your Will [With Examples]

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 14th November 2023

Writing a will is an important and responsible step in planning for your family's future, whether you are a first-time parent, a homeowner, or someone entering retirement.

A will ensures your assets are distributed as you wish, making sure that your loved ones are taken care of. 


However, there are certain things you should never include in your will. 

In this article, we will detail nine things you should never include in your will, and why.

9 Things You Should Never Put in Your Will

Conditions or rules

Wills should be straightforward and easy to interpret.

While it's important to be clear about how you want your assets distributed when you pass away, putting conditions or rules in your will is not legal and can lead to many problems like confusion and legal challenges.

For example, insisting that a beneficiary will inherit a certain asset only if they get married by a specific age or on the basis of another life event can lead to complications.

Example: “I wish to give my watch to Lucy when she graduates from University.” 

Instead say: “I wish to give my watch to Lucy.”

Personal wishes

Your will is not the place to express your personal wishes or provide detailed instructions on matters unrelated to the distribution of assets.

Your will can be read by anyone because they are a matter of public record after the grant of probate. If you want to leave a letter or set of instructions for your loved ones, consider doing so separately from your will so that it remains private. 

Example: “I wish for Lucy to apologise to Daniel and for them to make up.”

Funeral arrangements

While you can express your preferences for your funeral or memorial service in your will, it's not legally binding. It's often best to discuss your funeral wishes with your family and appoint a responsible person, also known as an executor, to ensure they are carried out. This person can also make decisions in line with your cultural or religious preferences, which may change over time.

Gifts to pets

As much as we love our furry friends, they cannot inherit assets or property. Instead, you can make provisions for the care of your pets in your will. Consider naming a trusted individual as the caretaker and providing funds for the pet's maintenance. This way, you can ensure your pets are well looked after as well as following the legal constraints of a will.

Jointly held assets

Assets that are jointly owned typically come with rights of survivorship. This means that if one of the joint owners passes away, the surviving owner automatically inherits the property. You don't need to include these assets in your will since they have their own built-in mechanisms for distribution. These often include joint bank accounts and jointly owned real estate.

Pension plans and life insurance

Pension plans and life insurance policies have their own beneficiary nominations. It is important to keep these updated separately from your will. Naming beneficiaries in your pension and insurance policies ensures that these assets are distributed efficiently, bypassing the probate process and potentially saving your beneficiaries time and money.

Leased items or items on credit

You cannot leave assets you do not own outright in your will. Items that are leased, financed, or still under a credit agreement are not legally yours to give away, for example a car leased on PCP or Hire Purchase.

These items typically belong to the leasing or financing company until you complete the agreed-upon payments. You can discuss your intentions with your family or leave instructions for your executor regarding these items, but they cannot be legally passed on.

Precise explanations

When you're writing your will, it can be really tempting to be very precise about who gets what. For example, you might say you wish to leave your family home, 343 Baker Street, to your wife; but what happens if you've already sold that specific house by the time you pass away?

Similarly, let's say your will specifies that you're leaving everything to your named children, James and Sarah. But then, you have another child, Adam. If you don't update your will, Adam might not receive anything when you pass away.

To prevent these issues, and potential disputes between siblings about inheritance rights, it's a good idea to keep your will a bit more flexible. Instead of naming specific things or people, you could say: 

"I want my belongings to be split equally between my children who are still alive when I'm gone." 

This way, you won't have to keep changing your will every time something in your life changes, such as having more children or moving house. 

Business interests

Transferring business interests through your will can be complicated. It's often best to create a separate business succession plan, outlining who will take over your business or shares. In many cases, business ownership and control depend on specific legal agreements, so your will may not be the appropriate place for such instructions.

Get help with wills and estate planning

It’s important to cover all the bases when writing a will to make sure your wishes for your assets and other arrangements are followed when you pass away. 

At Lawhive, our team of expert wills, trust and probate solicitors are on hand to help you with all elements of estate planning from writing a will to creating trusts and understanding Inheritance Tax law. To get started working with a solicitor on your will, get in touch with us today.

Share on:

Get legal help the hassle-free way

We have expert solicitors ready to resolve any type of legal issue in the UK.

Remove the uncertainty and hassle by letting our solicitors do the heavy lifting for you.

Get Legal Help

Takes less than 5 mins

We pride ourselves on helping consumers and small businesses get greater access to their legal rights.

Lawhive is your gateway to affordable, fast legal help in the UK. Lawhive uses licensed solicitors you can connect with online for up to 50% of the cost of a high-street law firm.

Lawhive Ltd is not a law firm and does not provide any legal advice. Our network includes our affiliate company, Lawhive Legal Ltd. Lawhive Legal Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority with ID number 8003766 and is a company registered in England & Wales, Company No. 14651095.

Lawhive Legal Ltd is a separate company from Lawhive Ltd. Please read our Terms for more information.

© 2024 Lawhive
86-90 Paul Street, London EC2A 4NE

Version: 4d70677