Wills & Probate
Your last will and testament is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. If a person dies without a Will they are said to have died “intestate” and state laws will determine how and to whom the person’s assets will be distributed.
Some things you should know about wills:
- A will has no legal authority until after death. So, a will does not help manage a person’s affairs when they are incapacitated, whether by illness or injury.
- A will does not help an estate avoid probate. A will is the legal document submitted to the probate court, so it is basically an “admission ticket” to probate.
- A will is a good place to nominate the guardians (or back-up parents) of your minor children if they are orphaned. All parents of minor children should document their choice of guardians. If you leave this to chance, you could be setting up a family battle royal, and your children could end up with the wrong guardians.
A properly executed will is usually the first step in creating an estate plan; however it’s merely the first step of many.
We have found the answer to the tedious problem of settling the estate of a loved one. With our TrustCASE™ system we map out the estate administration up front. This step-by-step process relieves the family of much of the stress and hassle.
Because probate can be a lengthy and costly process, many people choose to avoid it. The average cost to settle an estate in probate can range from 2-4% of the gross value of the remaining assets. While the average time it takes to complete is at least 12-18 months.
There are a several legal strategies that will allow you to pass property to another person after death, without going through probate:
- Joint Tenancy & Tenancy by the Entirety: Adding another person as a joint owner or “joint tenant with rights of survivorship” will allow your property to pass to them upon your death without going through probate.
- Beneficiary Designations: Massachusetts allows Transfer on Death (TOD) or Pay on Death (POD) beneficiary designations to be added to bank accounts. Beneficiary designations like these are preferable to joint tenancy in that they allow you to transfer property only upon your death without giving away current ownership.
Revocable Living Trust. This legal document allows you to establish a separate entity (the trust) to hold legal title to your assets while you are alive. Typically, you would serve as the trustee managing the assets for your own benefit. Upon your disability or death, the trust would appoint a successor trustee to manage or distribute the assets.