A large number of families in Massachusetts are comprised of children from a previous marriage and couples who are getting married for the first or second time later in life. This often means that both parties are coming into the marriage with their own wealth and assets. Asset protection takes on a new meaning for these families when it comes to estate planning.
A surviving spouse is entitled to at least a portion of his or her deceased spouse's estate by law despite what a will may say. Therefore, in order to ensure that children from a prior relationship receive certain assets of the estate, creating or updating each party's estate plan is a necessity. In most instances, any property that an individual wishes to leave to his or her children needs to be spelled out in a will. Some individuals choose to put their assets into trust for loved ones, which is also considered a viable way to protect their inheritances.
Wills and trusts ensure that a person's children -- or whomever he or she designates -- will inherit whatever assets an individual chooses instead of the property going to the surviving spouse, at least to the extent permitted by law. It is not enough to have an undocumented agreement with a spouse that he or she will share the estate with the decedent's children or anyone else. Further, the proceeds of life insurance policies and retirement accounts will be distributed to the person or persons listed on the beneficiary designation. This form overrides a will, so it is important to be sure that the appropriate party or parties are named.
How an estate is structured varies from person to person. Regardless of what an individual is trying to accomplish, a plan can most likely be created to meet those goals. A Massachusetts resident who is looking to ensure asset protection for his or her heirs and beneficiaries may benefit from seeking the advice and assistance of someone who can help achieve an estate plan that will meet all of his or her desires.
Source: enterprisenews.com, "MAKING CENTS: Estate planning for non-traditional relationships", John Napolitano, Nov. 22, 2014