One of the most fundamental components of an estate plan is a “Last Will and Testament,” commonly known as a “Will.” A Will is a legal document that controls the distribution of property after a person passes away. It can help you accomplish all of the following goals:
- Allow you to determine who gets your assets after you pass away, rather than the Commonwealth of Massachusetts making this decision for you
- Name the person (called the personal representative) you want to manage your estate after death
- Allow real estate and other assets to be sold upon your death without a court proceeding
- Make gifts to charity upon your death
- Determine who will bear the burden of estate and other taxes
- Name a guardian for minor or disabled children
What If You Die Without Making a Will?
If you die without a Will, your property will be distributed to your heirs according to formulas determined by the Massachusetts statutes. That is, the state, not you, will control “who gets what.” This can lead to a host of potential problems. For example, state formulas for determining asset distribution are extremely rigid—they make no exceptions for family members in need or what you might (or might not) have wanted. The state will also appoint the person who will manage your estate. This could be someone you never would have wanted to handle such an important matter. In addition, the cost of probating your estate could very well be significantly higher than if you had created a Will.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Create a Will?
No, but even if you use software programs and on-line services designed to help you write a Will yourself, the wills are often invalid. Even when they are valid, they often leave many questions unanswered and lead to increased court costs down the road. An attorney with experience in this area has the judgment and knowledge necessary to avoid potential problems and advise the best course of action for each individual. After all, every family is unique, with specific dynamics, goals, and concerns. An estate planning attorney can take these into account and design a customized Will that can meet your goals and anticipate problems down the road, such as challenges to the Will, family disputes, improperly written (and therefore invalid) Wills, and more. It can be cheaper in the long run, and considerably safer, to have an attorney design and implement your Will. In addition, you should have an attorney review your Will at least every three years. Doing so will ensure your Will is still valid and capable of addressing changes to the law and changes that have taken place in your family.
Contact us today to discuss your particular needs and estate planning goals.