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What is a residuary estate and can it be avoided?

If you someday serve as an estate executor, you will have the task of distributing the assets of the decedent, perhaps a family member, to estate heirs. You may benefit from learning about possible complications you could encounter during probate, such as having to deal with residuary assets.

Residuary assets are assets not explicitly mentioned or designated in the will. It may not be clear who will inherit this kind of property.

How a residuary estate arises

A residuary estate can occur in several ways. The deceased may have acquired new assets after drafting their will but failed to update the document. The testator might also have forgotten to include specific assets in the will. Additionally, named beneficiaries may die before the testator does, causing their intended inheritance to become part of the residuary estate.

Problems posed by residuary assets

As an executor, you will face challenges in distributing residuary assets. Without clear instructions from the deceased, you must navigate Massachusetts estate law to determine who inherits these assets. This process can consume a lot of time and could lead to disputes among potential heirs. Furthermore, you must ensure that the estate pays all debts, taxes and expenses before distributing the residuary assets.

Avoiding residuary assets

The best way to prevent residuary assets is for the testator to regularly update and review the will to account for new assets and changing situations. Additionally, the testator can include a residuary clause in the will, specifying how to distribute any remaining assets. This proactive approach may save you from the complexities of dealing with residuary assets.

Dealing with residuary assets as an estate executor can be a challenging task. By understanding how they arise and the potential complications, you can better prepare for the probate process. Ultimately, the goal is to distribute the deceased’s assets according to their wishes while minimizing disputes and legal complications.


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