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Estate planning for transferring real estate and other assets

Massachusetts residents who own real estate often want to transfer it to their loved ones when they die. Fortunately, there are numerous options for transferring real estate assets in estate planning. The challenge is to find the way that works best for a particular individual's family dynamics and circumstances.

Regardless of how a person decides to transfer real estate, it is still a good idea to have at least a will. This document provides for the distribution of property and can be used to appoint a guardian for any minor children. Without a last will and testament, the intestacy laws of Massachusetts will decide where an individual's property goes, and that may not be how the decedent would have preferred. Transferring real estate by a will takes time, however, since it has to go through the probate process.

Many people use trusts in order to transfer property since they are able to control how and when distributions are made. In some cases, it might make more sense to title real estate jointly in order to allow for an immediate transfer of ownership. The same can be done for other assets, such as bank accounts and vehicles. Retirement accounts and insurance policies are most often governed by beneficiary designations, which distribute the proceeds of these accounts outside of probate. It is important to note that beneficiary designations will be followed regardless of what the will says, so a periodic review of these forms is necessary to ensure they remain in line with an individual's wishes.

Since the methods available for transferring assets upon death vary widely, it is typically beneficial to seek the advice of an estate planning attorney. Without an understanding of the pros and cons of each method, the property might not be transferred as a Massachusetts resident intended. Furthermore, once the plan for distribution of the property is decided upon, drafting and executing the appropriate documentation needs to be done in compliance with current laws in order to ensure that the process will go smoothly when the time comes.

Source: agrinews.com, "Estate planning can lessen grief for survivors", Karen Binder, Dec. 31, 2015

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