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The Law Office of
John W. Harmon

John W. Harmon, Esq.
JW@attorneyharmon.com
Fax: (508) 377-4442

Main Office
649 Massachusetts Avenue
Suite 8
Cambridge, MA 02139
phone: (617) 274-8256

232 Central Street
Leominster, MA 01453
phone: (978) 401-0660

Wills

pic A WILL is what many people think of when they first consider estate planning. This makes sense, as a properly drafted WILL should be the centerpiece of any estate plan, whether or not you decide to create a more extensive plan. And many people decide that a WILL is all the planning they need, at least for the time being.

As you undoubtedly know, a WILL specifies who gets property covered by that document when you die. A WILL can also serve other vital purposes, such as appointing a personal guardian to raise your minor children if you and the other parent aren’t available.
Property left by a WILL must normally go through Probate. As you may be aware, Probate is usually costly and burdensome. If you would like your assets to pass to your beneficiaries without the time and expense of Probate proceedings, you will need a more advanced estate plan that will likely include a Living Trust.

However, despite the downside of Probate, every estate plan should at least include a “backup” WILL to cover things that Probate-avoidance devices don’t address. For some purposes, a simple WILL is the most appropriate estate planning vehicle. For example, if you have minor children, a WILL is the only device that will allow you to name a guardian for your children. If you receive property late in life and do not have time to transfer that property into your Living or AB Trust, this property will go to the residuary beneficiaries named in your WILL, who, by definition, take “the rest of (your) property” - that is, everything that isn’t left to some specific named beneficiary.

Creating a legal Will requires that:
* You are at least 18 years of age and of sound mind;
* The WILL is clearly worded and readable;
* The WILL has at least one substantive provision, e.g., leaving some property to someone;
* At least one person is appointed Executor/Personal Representative;
* The WILL is dated;
* The WILL is signed in front of at least two, non-beneficiary witnesses, who attest to that fact by their own signatures.
Because a legally enforceable WILL is often a rather short document, every word carries significance. Without the appropriate use of terminology, your intent could be completely undermined. Moreover, estate planning of any sort often involves complicated legal, financial and tax consequences. Therefore, it is imperative that your WILL is properly drafted by a trained professional.



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