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Preparing the cornerstone of estate planning -- the will

Contemplating mortality is not something most Massachusetts residents like to do. Even though logical people realize they are not going to live forever, death may still seem like a distant possibility. Therefore, many people fail to take care of their estate planning needs -- including the drafting and executing of a will.

Many other documents need to accompany a will including trusts, advanced directives, a durable power of attorney and a health care treatment directive. However, a will is often considered the cornerstone of any estate plan. Young people often fail to realize that they need a will simply because there seems to be so much more time remaining in their lives.

The truth is that anyone who owns assets or has children needs a will. Without a will, the state of Massachusetts will decide where a person's assets go and who will take over parenting responsibilities for the deceased individual's children. Even if a person does not have many assets, it should be up to him or her how they are allocated after death.

Several assets such as bank accounts, retirement accounts and insurance policies are either directly transferred or paid upon an individual's death. These assets, along with select others, often do not end up passing through a person's will. Beneficiary designations determine who will inherit these assets.

Regardless of age, estate planning is important for everyone. Even though it is difficult to contemplate, no one is given a guaranteed number of years to live. Putting together an estate plan that encompasses all of an individual's goals for his or her family after death and including safeguards in case of incapacitation can give everyone involved some peace of mind. Understanding what documents will accomplish a person's goals might ensure that those wishes are carried out after death.

Source: tri-cityherald.com, Are you ready for death? Resolve to get your affairs in order, Tim Engle, Jan. 28, 2014

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