People in Massachusetts and throughout the nation who neglect to create a last will and testament may instead be creating potential relational and financial disasters. Some people believe that a handwritten note will direct the proper distribution of assets, but this is not necessarily true. Without a valid will, a deceased person's property will be distributed under the laws of intestacy of the state having jurisdiction over the estate, and this may very well not be in accord with the decedent's wishes.
In addition to property distribution, another important provision in a will is a designation of who will be responsible for minor children if both parents pass away. Sometimes couples avoid making a will because choosing a potential guardian is so controversial. However, in the absence of a provision, families may begin squabbling over something that is both very personal and extremely important. To make sure children are not impacted by these controversies, couples must have the conversation and take action.
Another important legal document that everyone over 18 years old should have is a health care proxy designating someone to make medical decisions in the event a person is unable to do so. The importance of such a document was tragically revealed after the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech. Privacy laws barred parents of injured and unconscious students from making any medical decisions since most of these students did not have such a document.
Estate planning is important for all adults regardless of age or financial standing. An attorney who has experience in this area may be able to help review a client's existing documents to make sure they reflect current priorities and life changes.
Source: CNBC, "Where there's a will, there's a way", David Mendels, March 02, 2014