Even If You Have a Will, You Might Want to Read This
By: Atty. Michelle F. Rosenberg
Many of us are reluctant to think about the consequences of our own demise; and although most people are aware that it is a good idea to have at least a Will in place in the event the inevitable occurs unexpectedly, surprisingly, less than 35% of adult Americans report actually having a Will.
Likewise, many who have a Will, may not know that after a life changing event like a divorce, their Will may not be legally binding.
Without a Will, the estate of the deceased passes to the heirs via the state’s intestacy statutes (in Massachusetts, General Laws, c. 190B, §2-101 et. seq.). The result is higher estate tax consequences, as well as an outcome which may not only fail to fully protect and provide for the loved ones left behind, but which may also be vastly different from what the deceased intended.
Even if one does have a Will in place, it is estimated that more than 120 million Americans do not have up to date estate plans, according to estateplanninganswers.org. A Will is not necessarily valid or effective for an indefinite period of time. Like any legal document, a Will should be reviewed periodically, and updated if necessary, especially if a significant life changing event has occurred since the document was executed.
Did you know that in Massachusetts, when a married couple divorces any Wills that they may have executed together during their marriage, are no longer valid?
A divorce is a life changing event which warrants a new Will for the former spouses, as well as a review of any Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney that may have been executed during the parties’ marriage. After all, who among us would want a former spouse potentially responsible for managing our finances post divorce, or deciding whether or not to “pull the plug”.
Similarly, while the birth of a child or the death of a spouse may not render an existing Will or estate plan invalid, they too are significant life changing events which warrant a review of an existing plan. For example, a previously childless couple might want to change the beneficiaries of the estate to include the children, and put some Trusts in place, in the event of their passing while the children are still minors. In addition, the new parents might also want to express their preference as to who should act as guardian for their children in the event of their death prior to the children reaching the age of majority.
Likewise, a surviving spouse may have different needs now that he or she is widowed. Accordingly, the existing estate plan should be reviewed to make sure that it will still accomplish what it needs to do. Beneficiaries, Health Care Proxies, Executors and other fiduciaries may need to be changed and/or added. In addition, depending on the age and health of the surviving spouse, other estate planning tools, such as trusts, may need to be put in place in order to protect a party’s assets and estate.
At South Shore Law, our attorneys can provide you with the insight and guidance to ensure you have the best estate plans and Will in place to protect your assets. We welcome the opportunity to review and update your existing estate plan, or to help you establish an estate plan for the first time, to make sure that your goals are met, and your family and your assets are protected – all at a reasonable cost to you.
Do you know someone who could benefit from this information? Pass it along and tell them about South Shore Law. Our experienced attorneys are committed to successfully solving any current legal challenges while insulating you from potential future threats to you or a business. Everyday, our lawyers who live right here on the South Shore, strive to deliver exceptional legal representation to our neighbors and friends at affordable rates.
The information provided in this website and accompanying materials are all presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to be comprehensive legal guidance nor be interpreted as legal advice. Communications with South Shore Law, its lawyers and agents shall not be interpreted in such a manner as to form an attorney-client relationship. To begin exploring such a relationship, consult an experienced attorney at South Shore Law by filling out the contact form or call us at 781-749-5600.