Dedham Estate Planning Lawyer
If you’ve thought much about estate planning, you probably already know that you need a will and probably a trust as well to meet all of your needs and goals most appropriately. It’s not hard to find do-it-yourself kits for these documents or non-attorney preparers, or even templates you can download online. However, using any of those services is not likely to meet your needs. In fact, they are likely to wind up being invalid and not recognized by the courts, leaving you without a valid estate plan and inviting litigation or throwing your estate to the mercy of Massachusetts intestacy laws. Even if valid, they would only cover the most basic requirements, and you would be apt to miss out on the most important advantages these documents have to offer.
An experienced and professional Dedham estate planning lawyer can draft your last will and testament and even a revocable living trust for amounts you would find surprisingly affordable. You don’t want to take chances with your future or that of your loved ones. Drafting wills and trusts that will be valid, enforceable, and effectively meet your needs requires legal skill and expertise. In Dedham, call Fisher Law LLC to discuss your needs with a dedicated legal professional in a cozy and relaxed office environment. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you with your estate planning needs.
What Makes a Valid Will in Dedham?
The person making the will, known in the law as the testator, must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind when the will is made. Massachusetts law does not define “sound mind,” but this generally means the testator knows the extent of their estate and understands that he or she is making a will that will dispose of the contents of that estate.
The will must be in writing and signed by the testator. If the testator is physically unable to sign the will, the testator can direct another person to sign on the testator’s behalf. In either case, the signature must be witnessed by at least two people who also sign the will attesting to the fact that they witnessed the signature or the testator’s acknowledgment that the signature is valid.
Witnesses must be generally competent to serve as witnesses. If a witness is also someone who is receiving a gift in the will, then there must be at least two other witnesses in order for the gift to be upheld by the probate court. Alternatively, the witness will have to prove to the court that the specific bequest was not inserted and the will was not signed as a product of fraud or undue influence. Otherwise, the gift to the interested witness is void, but the will itself can still be valid.
A will does not have to be signed in the presence of a notary to be valid, but a notarized will is accepted as self-proving by the probate court. Part of the probate process includes proving that the will offered for probate is the testator’s last will and testament. In fact, the very word “probate” comes from the Latin meaning “to prove.” If the will isn’t notarized, the probate judge might require the witnesses to come forward and testify in court that they signed the will, which can be a hassle, to say the least, or a much bigger problem if a witness is unavailable. A notarized will, on the other hand, is “self-proving” and will be accepted by the probate court as the testator’s last will and testament without requiring additional evidence.
What Is Required for a Valid Trust in Dedham?
Like wills, trusts must be formed according to applicable statutory rules in order to be valid. However, the rules are less strict in some ways when compared to the Massachusetts statute of wills. For instance, any of the following methods could be used to create a valid trust in Dedham:
- The transfer of property to another person serving as trustee during the settlor’s lifetime (living trust) or by will or other disposition taking effect upon the settlor’s death (testamentary trust)
- Declaration by the owner of the property that the owner holds identifiable property as trustee
- Exercise of a power of appointment in favor of a trustee
The following rules also apply to the creation of a trust:
- The person making the trust (known as the settlor or grantor) must have the capacity to create a trust.
- The settlor must indicate the intention to create the trust.
- The trust must have a definite beneficiary unless the trust is a charitable trust, a pet trust, or a trust for a non-charitable purpose as allowed by Massachusetts law. Having a “definite” beneficiary means that the beneficiary is ascertainable either now or in the future. In other words, it is clear who the beneficiary is intended to be. A trust can give the trustee the power to select a beneficiary from an indefinite class (such as “my children” or “my grandchildren”), but this power has to be exercised within a reasonable time.
- The trustee must have duties to perform under the trust.
- The same person cannot be the only trustee and the only beneficiary in the trust.
- The trust must be created for a lawful purpose that doesn’t go against public policy.
Generally speaking, trusts are more complex documents compared to wills and require additional skill and expertise to draft correctly. That said, trusts can be either simple or complex depending on their purpose, the property involved, and the conditions the settlor wishes to put on the trust.
Get the Right Set of Wills and Trusts to Complete Your Dedham Estate Plan
Fisher Law LLC can help you draft valid and enforceable wills and trusts in Dedham that meet your needs and distribute your estate the way you want. For thorough and thoughtful estate planning in Dedham, call Fisher Law LLC to discuss your needs with an approachable and professional Dedham estate planning attorney.