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Creating a will means embracing choice

A person is often unable to make many choices about his or her own death. However, you can make choices about what you want to happen after your death. One way to embrace those choices is by creating a last will and testament.

There are many benefits to creating a will, such as speeding up the probate process, minimizing estate taxes and preventing family infighting. However, some of the most valuable benefits involve your ability to make choices about what happens after your death.

Choose how your assets are distributed

A will allows you to choose how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. If you do not have a will, you forfeit your right to decide where your assets go, and your assets will be distributed according to Massachusetts' intestate succession laws.

Although the purpose of these laws is to distribute your assets to your closest living relative, intestate succession is a one-size-fits-all solution that may not be the most appropriate for your situation. For example, if you have a significant other who you are not married to, you may want some of your assets to go to that person. However, under intestate succession laws, your significant other may not stand to inherit anything.

With a will, you can choose who you would like to inherit from your estate and what you would like each person to inherit. You can also disinherit someone who would have otherwise stood to inherit, or use your assets to support a charity.

Choose who manages your final affairs

If you draft a will, you can also choose someone to manage your final affairs. This person, called your personal representative, is responsible for finding and managing your assets, using your estate to pay your final bills and taxes, and distributing your assets according to your will.

If you do not choose your personal representative, a court may choose one. However, the court may not choose the same person you would have, and your family members could end up fighting over the position. By selecting someone you trust to be your personal representative, you can help ensure that the probate process goes as smoothly as possible.

Choose a guardian for your minor children

If you have minor children, and you die unexpectedly, your children will most likely be cared for by their other parent. However, someone else may need to care for your children if you and the other parent die or you die and the other parent is determined to be unfit to parent your children.

If you do not select a guardian, a court will. A court will select the guardian that it thinks is in your children's best interests. However, a court may never have as much insight to your child's needs or your family dynamics as you have, and the process for selecting a guardian can take time, which may not be in your children's best interests if they are grieving. By preselecting a guardian for your children, you can help make sure they are cared for by someone you trust who can step up right away to support your children's needs.

Drafting a will allows you to make several choices about what you want to happen after you die. However, by not having a will, you are also making a choice. Without a will you are choosing to let a court decide what should happen to your assets, who will manage your final affairs and who will care for your children. 

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