FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2011-09-08
It’s never too soon to start.
If you have the vague, nagging sense you should do something about your estate plan (or lack thereof), here’s a few suggestions of things to consider as you prepare to meet with an estate planning attorney.
Will most of your assets pass through the probate system? Probate is the process of verifying a will, or if there isn’t a will, following the statutory intestate scheme to distribute the assets of a deceased person’s estate.
In a will, you name a personal representative who distributes your assets and pays your debts. While virtually anyone can serve as personal representative, you may want to consider both the complexity of your estate and the qualifications of the person.
A family member is an easy choice, but if you have a complex, financially sophisticated estate, you and your heirs may be better off if you chose a corporate entity with experience handling complex estates.
If you are attempting to avoid probate with a combination of trusts, it is important to choose a trustee who can properly administer your property. Unless you have a very simple estate with very few assets, you probably do not want to choose an inexperienced family member as your personal representative or trustee. It would be preferable to select a corporate trustee or a financial institution.
Who Will Care for the Children?
If you have children, it’s important to think about whom you want as their guardian. This is not something you want to decide impulsively. Think about how old the guardian is and how old they will be when your child would reach 18 years of age.
Do they have any children? How old are they and how would they relate to your child or children? Could they afford to take your children? Do they have any health concerns that could make it impossible for them to serve as a guardian?
Also, think of an alternate guardian, as the unexpected could happen, and some contingency could prevent them from taking the role.
If you have any personal property such as jewelry, antique furniture or any other specific item of your property that you want a specific person to have, you can use your will to name them and assign the property to them. This can prevent later disagreements among your heirs.
Even if you have a large complex estate, once you consider topics like care for your children, even a modest estate should have a plan. A Massachusetts estate planning attorney can help you develop a plan that best serves your needs.