Although readers may associate the area of family law with litigation issues like divorce or child custody, our Worcester County, Massachusetts law firm also pairs estate planning with family law services. We recommend that individuals in all stages of life prepare an estate plan.
For example, parents should prepare for the possibility that there may not be a surviving spouse, or that their minor children will require a guardian. A will can be the vehicle for nominating a guardian until minor children reach the age of 18. A will can also nominate a conservator, the individual managing inherited assets left to minor children. A trust may also be a smart strategy for directing how inherited assets or income will be disturbed to heirs.
Couples going through a divorce should also consider the implications to their estate. For example, perhaps spouses were named in retirement or life insurance policies. An attorney that focuses on both estate law and property division in divorce can counsel couples on their available options. At a minimum, an attorney can create a checklist for divorcing couples to follow, advising them to update their beneficiary designations, close joint accounts, and take an inventory of their marital property and any joint debts.
The benefit to combining estate planning with family law is economy of resources. In the event of divorce, the assets identified in estate planning can give couples a good estimate of the size and value of their marital estate. Similarly, if a couple established a trust, the distribution in that trust might inform a court’s child support determinations. Specifically, the distributions could provide a monetary benchmark of the lifestyle to which a minor child had become accustomed, or at least the amount of support that his or her parents believed to be necessary.
Source: FindLaw, “Planning an Estate,” copyright 2015, Thomson Reuters