July 30, 2006
Many have heard the expression, "where there’s a will, there’s a way," but among estate planning specialists, we have changed the old adage some, that is, to "where there’s a Will, there’s an heir." This saying reflects the inherent complexities involved in establishing a Will and highlights the importance of having a well crafted plan to ensure that your heirs receive your assets as intended.
A Will is document in which you direct to whom your property will pass when you die. In Massachusetts, to execute a valid will, you must be at least eighteen (18) years old and of sound mind. Your Will must be in writing, signed by you, and witnessed by at least two people who must also sign the Will. A well drafted Will also contains an affidavit, known as a self-proving affidavit, establishing that you followed all of the formalities required when executing a Will, which eliminates the need to have a witness go to the Probate Court to prove your Will after your passing. Once you have established a Will, you can change it at any time so long as you are competent.
A Will directs the disposition of your probate estate, which consists of any property held in your name alone that does not have a beneficiary designated at the time you pass away. Many people attempt to avoid probate by holding all of their assets jointly with the person(s) that they want to have them if they pass away or by naming those persons as beneficiaries on any assets where beneficiary designations are allowed. As such, a common misconception is that you do not need a Will if everything you own is either held jointly or has a beneficiary designated. There must be a surviving joint owner or beneficiary...
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by: Gina M. Barry, Esquire