Everyone needs an estate plan. Follow these tips to get yours right.
Who Should have a Will?
In Massachusetts, young or old, you need to have a Will. The still-new Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code changed the way estates are passed on, if there is no Will. Save your family the heartache and the complications. Make sure your assets go where you want them to.
If you have minor children, name Guardians
Minor children need to be cared for if both parents pass. Your Will should name guardians for the children, and if possible, the financial means for them to do so. Also, consider making the guardian a DIFFERENT PERSON from the individual you designate to be in charge of the money, especially if the guardians have children of their own already. You might love your designated guardians' children, but your assets should be for your own children.
Review your Estate Plan at major life events.
If you have a child, get married, get divorced, or your spouse passes away, your estate plan needs to be reviewed! This is probably the biggest and most common mistake. People put their plan away, and don't think to look back over it. I recommend all my clients review their documents at least ANNUALLY. Failure to update and change designated individuals can wreak havoc on those you leave behind. Also be sure to make sure your life insurance policies have updated beneficiaries at all times.
Know if Life Insurance will put you over the tax limit.
Most of us are not in danger of going over the estate tax threshold because of our probate assets, but in most circumstances, life insurance is also included in the taxable estate, even if it is left to living beneficiaries. if life insurance will put you over the top, consider a Life Insurance Trust.
Reduce your Probate Assets
Probate assets are those in your name alone, and not held jointly. Many bank accounts and retirement accounts allow you to designate beneficiaries that will receive the funds at your death, therefore keeping the asset out of probate, and out of reach by creditors. In most circumstances, creditors can only seek repayment of debts from your Probate Assets.
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