A Last Will and Testament is a legal document covering the distribution and disbursement of all real and personal property after death. A will can be drafted by a person who is over eighteen years of age, of competent mind, and must signed under the formalities of the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.A will must also name an executor who is charged with carrying out the wishes of the decedent. Some of the executor’s roles include:

  • Finding and managing the decedent’s assets so that the assets can be distributed according to the terms of the will.
  • Decide whether or not a probate proceedings is necessary (if the decedent’s property is worth less than $15,000.00, it may be able to go through a streamlined probate process).
  • Determining who inherits property (whether decedent left a written will or not).
  • If there is a will, file it with the local probate court.
  • Handle day-to-day details (this may include notifying and/or cancelling credit cards, notifying banks and government agencies — such as the Social Security Administration — of the decedent’s death).
  • Set up an estate bank account (to hold money that is owed to the decedent).
  • Use estate funds to pay continuing expenses.
  • Pay off all of decedent’s debts.
  • Pay decedent’s taxes (a final income tax return must be filed which covers the period from the beginning of the tax year to the date of decednet’s death).
  • Supervise the distribution of the deceased person’s property.

Also, if you have minor children, you will want to name at least one personal guardian for each of your children in your will. Legally, you may name more than one guardian for each child, but generally, it is not a good idea because of the possibility that the guardians will disagree, or in the case of a married couple, break-up. On the other hand, if you prefer that two people care for your child — for example, a stable couple — name both of them, so that they each will have the legal authority to make important decisions on behalf of your child. When trying to decide who to choose as your child’s personal guardian, here are some factors to consider:

  • Does the guardian have a genuine concern for your child(ren)’s welfare?
  • Does the guardian share your moral/religious beliefs?
  • Does the guardian have the time to take care of children?
  • Is the guardian up to the physical aspect of the job?
  • Does the guardian have kids close in age to your children?
  • Can you provide enough assets to raise your child(ren)? If not, can the guardian afford to raise them?
  • Is the guardian old enough? (at least 18 years of age).
  • Would your children have to move (either out of town, out of state or out of country)?

A statutory will is a very simple standard will form that can be completed by a testator by checking boxes and filling in certain blanks. This type of will, while legally binding in Massachusetts via the Uniform Statutory Will Act, is purposely written in very simple and general manner. it may be difficult to complete a statutory will while simultaneously addressing all of your estate planning needs. If you execute a legally valid statutory will, and, after your death, it is discovered that you have omitted an asset, it is left to the Probate Court (and not you) to determine how to distribute that asset.

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