What to Do When Creating a Last Will and Testament in MassachusettsYour last will and testament determines who gets a piece of your estate after you die. It determines who will file the will with the probate court, control the estate and pay off debts and taxes to the estate before distributing the property, and it also determines the guardian for your minor kids after your demise. Putting all this power on one document only means one thing - you have to do it right. You do not want your kids to suffer upon your demise. You want your surviving spouse well and happy (if you have one), you may want your business to remain in the family, and you may also want the business not to die after you. And above all that, you wouldn't want your family fighting over your assets, would you? So, what makes the will valid and what should you specify in the will?
The validity of the will
- For its validity, you may want to get a free Massachusetts last will and testament form online, not just to make sure you have everything you need in the will, but also to standardize it. The last will and testament should be prepared as per the provisions of the Massachusetts laws.
- You have to be 18 years or older, you must be mentally sound at the time of creating the will, you must create the will voluntarily, and you must put down your signature.
- You will also need two or more adult and competent witnesses to attest to and subscribe to your status, in your presence. The witnesses must sign the will.
- The will should also be in writing. Wholly handwritten (holographic) will are unacceptable in Massachusetts. On the other hand, the state recognizes oral (nuncupative) wills although this is only the case if the will is made by an individual active in the military service or by a mariner at sea wishing to dispose of their personal property.
- You also need to list the heirs or beneficiaries of your estate.
In Massachusetts, you will come across two types of simple probate processes:One is where an estate does not contain any real estate and worth less than $20,000. The other is a probate process initiated for estate not exceeding the value of the exempt property, the probate costs, family allowances, as well as the funeral expenses and last medical expenses. Don't forget to file the will in the county last resided by the decedent. An executor has to file the will with the probate court and the Family Court Department where an executor is granted Letters Testamentary.
Essential elements of a will
- List of beneficiaries
- You have to determine who among your loved ones get a piece of the pie. When starting out, you can list anyone you'd like in the will. However, you can amend the will later in the event of recent births or deaths, divorces or marriages. You also need to learn about the state laws to know if disinheriting your kids and/or spouse is acceptable.
- List of significant assets
- Which assets would you like to leave to your loved ones? List the large items first then the smaller ones. Try to be as specific as possible. Note that you only get to distribute property that is in your name. Exempted assets include jointly held tenancies with the right of survivorship, assets in revocable living trusts, proceeds from retirement accounts or life insurance policies, and property you owned as tenants wholly.
- List of debts
- You need to list down mortgages in your name, credit card loans, car loans, leases, personal loans, student loans, and outstanding taxes to your estate. Although none of your beneficiaries will inherit the debts, listing down what you owe will help you get a clear picture of your financial status. Since there is a possibility of some of your debts turning into a responsibility of your estate, you could take a life insurance policy to cover some of the expenses.
- Name an executor
- An executor will handle your estate and ensure that your directives are followed. An executor should be one of the beneficiaries, but you need to ask them if they are willing to take up the role. You should list their successor too.
- Name a guardian
- A guardian will take care of your minor kids, or special needs dependents should the other parent be unavailable or unable to take care of them. The guardian could also be in charge of their inheritance until they are of age.
- Creating testamentary trusts
What happens if you don't have a will?
- Well, the state of will invoke the strict intestacy laws which govern asset distribution for deceased persons without wills. The following will happen once the intestacy laws are invoked:
- Your surviving spouse takes the whole estate if you didn't have kids but if you have surviving kids; your estate is divided in two between the spouse and kids.
- And, if you have a spouse, no kids, but survived by parents, your parents inherit a part of your estate.
- In the absence of a surviving spouse, kids and parents, you close relatives (siblings and grandparents) inherit the estate.