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Where to start to protect assets after death

Statistics show that approximately 64 percent of the people in the United States do not have a will, let alone a comprehensive estate plan. Undoubtedly, many of these individuals are Massachusetts residents. Part of the reason why at least some of them have yet to take the necessary steps to protect their assets after death is because they are not sure where to start.

Some Massachusetts residents might also not know when to start. Estate planning is often seen as something that people do later in life. However, the fact of the matter is that everyone is going to die, it is just a matter of when. Being prepared for the inevitable as soon as possible can put the minds of everyone at ease. Even young adults can benefit from having basic estate plans.

One of the first, and perhaps most challenging, steps is to choose who will inherit an individual's assets. After those individuals are chosen, the next step is to determine which property each of them will receive. This includes making bequests in a will, putting assets aside in a trust and/or filling out beneficiary designations. It should be noted that beneficiary designations, pay or transfer on death accounts, and jointly titled property will pass by operation of law, which means that they override a will. Therefore, a review of these accounts needs to be done periodically to ensure that the appropriate person or persons will inherit them.

Other issues relating to the disposition of assets upon death will need to be discussed and planned for before any documentation is executed. However, the most important part is to take the first step toward creating a plan. Otherwise, the state of Massachusetts will determine what happens to an individual's property if he or she dies without at least a will.

Source: kiplinger.com, "5 Tips to Start Your Estate Planning Today", Taylor Schulte, June 22, 2016

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