Estate planning is a term that can sound intimidating, but every adult in Massachusetts should have an estate plan. Estate planning documents like wills, trusts and power of attorney documents will determine how someone’s belongings are distributed after their death. Without properly executed documents, government protocols dictate the way that estates are dealt with.

It’s possible for people to do their own estate planning. For example, there are kits that people can use to make their own wills for free or for very low fees. However, these have their limitations. Experienced family law attorneys may help individuals write a will that takes all considerations into account and that will stand up in court.

Lawyers who help people plan their estates also go beyond simply crafting documents like trusts and wills. A good estate planner will ask lots of questions about things like retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Sometimes, people never change the beneficiary designations on accounts they created in their 20s or 30s, but those are legal documents and remain in force regardless of what a will might say.

Estate planning attorneys also have the experience to understand what can make a plan go awry. It’s possible to stipulate conditions in documents like wills, so an individual may want to restrict funds to heirs who have dangerous addictions. Wills are also an opportunity to designate a guardian for any minor children the testator has. It’s important to keep information about spouses and children up to date, or people may unintentionally be left out of a will.

Experienced attorneys know how the probate process works and may help clients understand what common problems are and how to avoid them. Using a professional to help plan an estate is an expense up front, but it may save a lot of money and time in the long run.