If you die in Massachusetts without a last will and testament, you’re leaving a lot of things up to chance – state law will control how your property will be distributed, and a probate and family court judge will have to determine who might be the best person to handle your estate, or the best person to take care of your children.
In contrast, having a last will and testament in place allows you to provide instructions that will control or influence these decisions, and will almost always be enforced by a judge. In the document, you can distribute your property to different people or charities, and these gifts can be compelled by the beneficiary. Within your will, you can also name a person to serve as your personal representative (formerly known as the executor) and that choice will be respected unless the court finds the person you chose cannot faithfully fulfill their duties. Finally, your will can also name the person or people you would like to be responsible for any of your children, when necessary. If the court finds the named guardian is willing and able to serve, your choice will then have priority over other qualified people.
Drafting a will is a simple process that requires a short conversation with your estate planning attorney and a review of the document to make sure it reflects your wishes. You should also consider amending your will if you’ve been married or divorced, if you’ve had more children or would like to add, remove, or change your beneficiaries, or if you’ve moved from another state.
If you need to discuss drafting your will, or have questions about any other estate planning issues, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-570-3170.