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Estate planning can be a popular year end task

The end of another year is approaching, and people often take time to contemplate the year that has passed and look forward and plan for the year to come. As the population of Massachusetts and the rest of the country continues to age, thoughts naturally turn to leaving a legacy and estate planning that can make that legacy a reality. Contemplating and planning for the end of one's life can be difficult, but it can be a priceless gift to family and loved ones.

For many, a major asset is the home they have lived in and in which they have raised a family. Typically, a home is owned jointly between husband and wife with what is known as right of survivorship. This states that if one spouse dies, the title would, in most cases, go to the surviving spouse. When that person passes, if there is no will or other document, such as a trust, to indicate who becomes owner of the home, the court may step in and choose a new owner.

In order to avoid this outcome, a will or trust can be created to designate beneficiaries for one's property and other assets. Failure to have the appropriate estate planning documents in place can result in family discord and legal issues at a time when a family is in mourning. In addition to having a will, it is also important to indicate beneficiaries on such assets as retirement plans and life insurance policies. Beneficiary designations typically supersede the contents of a will or trust.

Estate planning can appear to be an overwhelming task, and for that reason, many hesitate to undertake it in Massachusetts. Failure to do so can have unintended consequences for one's family and loved ones. An attorney familiar with estate law can review one's financial assets and other property and help a person to craft a comprehensive plan that provides for his or her final wishes.

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