Wills 101: 5 Questions to Get You Started with Your Plan

1. What exactly is a will?
A will is a legally enforceable document that controls how your property will be distributed and your bills paid when you die.  If you have children, you will will also nominate someone to be their guardian until they become adults.
2.  Why do I need a will?
A will helps you make decisions about how you would like your real estate and personal property (collectively known as your "estate") distributed after your death. Without a will, your property will be distributed by the courts through a process called intestate succession.  Depending on the size of your estate, this process can be complicated, expensive, and time-consuming.
3.  What is required for a will to be valid?
State laws govern the formalities that must be followed in order for a will to be considered valid and enforceable and many states have different requirements.  Under Massachusetts law, a person writing a will (known as the "testator") must be at least 18 years old, and competent to make decisions about his or her property.  The will must be witnessed by two people who sign in the presence of the testator, and the will must be in writing.
4.  Is a will the same thing as a "living will?"
No, it is not.  A living will is a written statement of whether you would want extraordinary medical treatment if you were injured and not able to communicate with your doctors.   A living will can be a useful part of your Advanced Health Care Directive (although a living will is not legally binding in the Commonwealth), but it should not be confused with a will, which only becomes effective if you die and therefore does not have anything to do with health care decisions.
5.  Do I need an attorney to write a will?
A will is just one component of a well-drafted estate plan, which may include advanced health care planning, powers of attorney, and trusts.   Even for  modest estates, there are usually complicating factors that might make it a good idea to check with an attorney.  Many estate planning attorneys charge a flat fee, so you know exactly what you are going to pay going

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April 13th 2017 |

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