What Happens if You Do Not Have a Will or Trust

People delay estate planning for many reasons. Some may say, “I’m young; I have plenty of time,” or “My children will inherit everything anyway.” Such reasoning may jeopardize your estate, sour family relationships, and create many complications for your heirs.

What happens if you do not have a will or trust in Massachusetts, and why should you create an estate plan as soon as possible?

No Will Means No Control Over Your Property After Your Death

Let’s say a Massachusetts resident died intestate — i.e., without leaving a legally valid will. In that case, all their property passes to heirs according to Massachusetts intestate succession laws.

The problem is that intestate succession laws may need to reflect your wishes. For example, if you are married but have no children or surviving parents, your spouse inherits 100% of your property (on top of community property, which you and your spouse had owned jointly). If you want to leave a portion of your estate to a sibling, niece, nephew, or cousin, you must specify this in a will.

A will allows you to determine who inherits what and who is responsible for closing your estate after you pass. A detailed, legally valid will communicate your wishes to your family, reducing conflicts over an inheritance.

Without a Will, You Have No Say About What Happens to Your Minor Children

What happens if you do not have a will or trust is even more perturbing if you have minor children. If you and your children’s other parent pass, the children may remain without a guardian. If this happens, the court will appoint a guardian and possibly a conservator to hold any assets they stand to inherit until they turn 18.

With a timely estate plan, you can name a guardian for your minor children in your will and set up a trust to preserve assets for your children. This helps your family avoid a complex court procedure and ensures that a person you trust takes care of your children when you are gone.

Your Family May Deal With a Longer and More Expensive Probate Process

Most Massachusetts estates must go through probate, which usually takes at least six months. Strategic estate planning will help you avoid probate so your beneficiaries receive their property immediately.

For example, you can name designated beneficiaries for some assets or place the property in a living trust. A successor trustee you appoint during your lifetime will take over trust management and property distribution after your passing.

Contact Jordan & White and Make an Estate Plan Today

Now that you know what happens if you do not have a will or trust, you understand the importance of estate planning. The experienced legal team at Jordan & White can help you create a legally valid, comprehensive estate plan that preserves your legacy, secures provision for your loved ones, and helps avoid family conflicts.

Call (978) 744-2811 or contact the firm online to consult an experienced estate planning attorney in Danvers, MA.