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The consequences of failing to do estate planning: A family feud

Famous musical artist Prince died without a will - and the battle for his estate is only now beginning. The consequences of failing to do any estate planning could be devastating for Prince's beneficiaries, who now have to mount legal challenges in order to get their due. Surprisingly, situations like this occur just as much for everyday Massachusetts residents as they do for celebrities. Here is how to prevent your family from starting a feud after your death by planning for your asset distribution.

First, a written estate plan is absolutely crucial for all Massachusetts families. Even if you do not have a vast number of assets, your beneficiaries deserve a clear plan for asset distribution. Help avoid conflicts among your family members by developing an organized approach to dividing your personal property. Make sure that you are updating these plans after major family events such as marriages, the births of children, divorce, deaths and others.

Next, be sure that you communicate your intent to your beneficiaries. Asset division that is equitable and fair is not always equal - that is, you may have a special-needs child that needs additional resources. Explain your reasons for asset allocation, and consider the fact that some of your beneficiaries may need gatekeepers in the form of a trust or other protection.

Finally, do not delay your estate planning process until you are too sick or mentally incapacitated to distribute your assets. Older people can be manipulated to create property transfer plans that are not in their best interests - so take care of your documentation early. A qualified attorney can help you learn more about your estate plan options, and avoid that "family feud" situation.

Source: Bradenton Herald, "Planning for your estate: How to avoid the next episode of ‘Family Feud’," Karin Grablin, May 01, 2017

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