Boston Area Wills & Trusts Attorney
Eastern Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorneys
A Last Will and Testament ("Will") is not a legal requirement, but its benefits cannot be overstated. Comprehensive estate planning means that when you pass or if you become incapacitated, you will have stated your intentions and spelled out your wishes for your estate and your loved ones.
A comprehensive Will has many considerations:
- Wills involve the appropriate descent and distribution of assets from an individual to others at death.
- The Will, as a document itself, is a statement of intention only. It is not a valid or legally significant document until the author of the Will dies and the Will has been brought to probate court to be authenticated ("allowed").
- Many people believe that once they have a Will, they are set and there is no need for a legal probate proceeding at death. However, if assets are owned individually by the decedent, a probate proceeding will be necessary. This means that individually-owned real estate, bank accounts and investment accounts are included. Probate proceedings are usually good to avoid because: they are administratively complex; they are time- consuming (minimum of one year from the date of death); they are expensive; and they are a public proceeding.
- Assets that are not individually owned and have paid-on-death beneficiaries such as an IRA, 401 (k), 403 (b), life insurance and annuities are not typically the subject of a probate proceeding.
What Happens If You Do Not Have A Will?
If you do not have a Will and assets are owned individually at death, your estate requires an "Administration." Similar to the probate of a Will, the proceeding is typically complex, takes a minimum of one year, is expensive and is public. In Massachusetts, the Commonwealth decides how the property is distributed in accordance with the Intestacy Statute which proscribes an estate distribution based upon blood relationship which may not be the distribution result you desire. That is why it is always important to have a Will.
A Trust Has Many Benefits and Can Also Help You Avoid Probate Court
Trusts have a number of benefits that often fit in with an individual's estate planning goals. Such goals may involve: proper descent and distribution of assets; probate avoidance; estate tax planning; flexibility for special needs, spendthrifts, minors, etc.; privacy; and asset protection/wealth preservation.
Depending upon your goals, a Revocable or Irrevocable Trust may be logical.
Revocable Trusts are very common estate planning tools and provide most benefits but do not protect assets for purposes of eligibility for benefits in a nursing home. As the rules for eligibility for nursing home benefits (Medicaid/MassHealth) have changed significantly over the years, Irrevocable Trusts are often used to protect assets in the event that nursing home care is required.
Attorney John Gianino at the Center for Elder Law & Estate Planning can help.
Assign an Executor
It is a good idea to assign an executor and give him or her the power to pay debts, taxes and administration expenses. You can also assign someone to make health care decisions for you. Learn more about durable power of attorney.
Make sure you decide how your estate is shared, not the state. Call the lawyers at 888-784-0864 or contact us online. We serve the greater Boston area, South Shore and eastern Massachusetts.