Drafting Wills And Trusts For Clients Across Massachusetts
A last will and testament, or a will, is a relatively simple document that dictates what happens to your assets once you have passed away. The document should define who you would like to receive your property, appoint a guardian to any minor children, and designate an executor – often your legal representative – to manage the distribution of your estate. The document needs to be signed in the presence of 2 witnesses to be formalized and can be updated fairly easily.
Trusts, meanwhile, can be more complex and have numerous categories. These include living trusts, which place your assets into the trust while you are still alive, with instructions to transfer to beneficiaries once you pass away or under other conditions you define. You can set up trusts for your children, for example, with funds to be used for defined categories, like education.
The Benefits Of Trusts
One of the key benefits of most trusts is the ability to limit or avoid probate court. Wills are matters of public record and face objections from outside parties that feel they are entitled to some portion or element of the deceased’s estate. This can tie up the impacted assets for months or even years as the matter is argued in court, potentially creating new headaches for your already grieving loved ones.
Trusts, however, are private, and are legally structured in such a way that tends to keep them immune from the objections of outside parties. They can also shelter assets from beneficiary creditors and help reduce or even eliminate the impact of federal estate taxes.
The Cost Of Not Having A Trust
The costs of not having a trust or will in place for when you pass away are significant. Remember, the goal of a will or trust is to specify your wishes for what happens to your assets and who takes care of your minor children. If you leave behind no valid will or trust defining those terms, your estate – including the care of your children – will be subject to Massachusetts’s intestate succession laws.
Under intestate succession, the state determines who assumes guardianship of your children and who gets your assets. Generally, assets are split proportionally amongst the closest living relatives, including the spouse, children with that spouse, parents, and siblings, generally in that order of priority. Your minor children will typically be assigned to your most immediate, able relative. Remember that there is no room for sentiment under intestate succession; if you intended to give a special collection to a close friend, for example, but had no will specifying this, the state will not honor your intention. That is why it is crucial to review and formalize your will or trust with a qualified estate planning attorney.
Contact Hare, Stamm, Harris & O’Connor, PLLC
Our legal team at Hare, Stamm, Harris & O’Connor, PLLC, can help evaluate the details of your estate, listen to your goals and concerns, and make suggestions on how best to enshrine your interests. To set up a consultation with our experienced lawyers, call 413-707-2753 or fill out our online contact form.