One of the oldest methods of passing your wealth to your heirs is the will. Wills have passed wealth for centuries. Wills have formal executory requirements, like witness and notarization. In your will you nominate an Executor also known as a Personal Representative. An Executor is the person who will be given the authority to transfer your assets to the heirs you name in your will. Many people don’t realize that a will requires a court process called probate. During the probate process your will is accepted by the court and then the court will give your nominated executor an appointment. Without the Probate Court’s appointment your executor will not have any authority to act for your estate. The Probate process is designed to protect anyone who may have an interest in your estate, even the people not listed in your will. Because of the protections afforded to your heirs in your will and your heirs at law, Probate takes a relatively long time to complete. In Massachusetts a reasonable rule of thumb for the time it takes to complete probate is 18 months. Typically a probate in Massachusetts costs about 5% of the probate estate – these expenses consist of filing fees, attorney’s fees, executor’s fees, accountant fees, appraisal fees, etc.
Because of the delay and the expense most people today try to avoid probate. As a result, wills do not play as important a role in the modern estate plan. Today the will is more of a “safety net” – there to catch assets that for what ever reason must go through probate.
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