Attorney Merrill J. Atkins has specialized in estate planning and has extensive experience in drafting Wills. Your Last Will and Testament may be your most important estate planning document. If you die without a Will, Massachusetts laws determine who will manage your estate and determine who will inherit your property. With a Will, you create a legally binding document that allows you to specify who will manage your estate after your death, who will inherit your property and who will be appointed as Guardian of your minor children if both you and your spouse are deceased.

Interested in creating your Last Will and Testament? Contact an experienced Sutton attorney at Merrill J. Atkins, Attorney at Law (link). He serves clients in Worcester County and the Blackstone Valley area.

Last Will and Testament Created to Meet Your Needs

In your Will, you will name one or more family members or friends who will serve as Personal Representatives of your estate. Under the new Massachusetts Probate Code, the term “Personal Representative” has replaced “executor,” “executrix,” “administrator” and “administratrix.” Your Personal Representative is responsible for paying your final debts and bills, funeral and burial expenses, the costs of administering your estate, income taxes and estate taxes, and filing your final income tax returns and estate tax returns (if required). After these payments are made, the Personal Representative will distribute the remaining property to those beneficiaries named by you in your Will. Your Personal Representative has the authority to use estate funds to retain an attorney, an accountant, an investment adviser, a real estate broker or other professional, as needed to assist with the administration of the estate.

Issues a Will Can Resolve

Your Will may deal with other issues that are important to you and your family. Many individuals have strong feelings about organ donation, cremation, and funeral and burial arrangements and include appropriate instructions in their Wills for family members to follow. Another important issue is your pet. If you have a pet, you should name a family member or friend who will take custody of your pet, as well as leaving sufficient funds to that person to care for your pet. A new issue that has arisen in recent years is the ownership and control of your electronic and online data, accounts, and social networking sites after your death. If this is a concern, your Will should clearly state that your Personal Representative is authorized to use, change, or terminate your electronic data, accounts, and websites. Some companies will deal only with your Personal Representative after your death, so it is important to include this provision in your Will.

Drafting and Signing Your Will

You must be at least 18 years old to execute a Will. The persons named as Personal Representative and Guardian of your minor children must also be at least 18 years old. The Will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must sign your Will. You and your witnesses should sign in the presence of a Notary Public, who will notarize your Will.

Contents of Your Will

Your instructions to your Personal Representative may include specific instructions about the distribution of personal items such as jewelry, cars, boats and the contents of your home (referred to as “tangible personal property”). Many people are not sure when they draft their Will who should inherit their personal property or they change their minds after their Will has been signed. The new Massachusetts Probate Code now allows you to prepare a separate written memorandum for your Personal Representative with detailed instructions about the distribution of these personal items. Under the new Probate Code, the memorandum is legally binding, even if you prepare it before or after you sign your Will. You do not need the assistance of any attorney to prepare the memorandum. Make sure that your instructions are clear, that you sign the memorandum, and store it with your Will, so that your Personal Representative will find it. If you change your mind in the future, destroy the original memorandum and prepare a new one, so there is no confusion. For the remainder of your estate, such as cash, investments and real estate, referred to as the “residue” of your estate, you have several options. You can direct your Personal Representative to distribute specific amounts of money or specific properties to family members, friends and charities, or you can instruct your Personal Representative to distribute the residue in terms of fractions or percentages, without dealing with specific assets.

Tell Us About Your Massachusetts Estate Planning Needs

There is no “one size fits all” Will. Whatever your situation is, Merrill has the experience, knowledge, and skill to tailor your Will to meet your goals and to suggest additional documents if a Will alone cannot accomplish your goals. It is likely that Merrill has dealt with circumstances similar to yours and will be able to quickly identify potential areas of concern and determine how to address them. For guidance with drafting your Last Will and Testament and other estate planning documents, contact us to schedule an appointment.


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