Stack of coins next to model home

What Exactly is an “Estate” and What is Yours Worth?

Your Massachusetts estate is basically everything you own, including money that would be generated upon your death (like life insurance). Some people think that their estate is too small to need an estate plan. However, it’s likely that your estate is even bigger than you think, and if you want to leave certain items to specific people, you need an estate plan. So, how do you figure out how big your estate is?

Step #1:
Make a list of everything in your estate (assets). An estate includes:

  • Cash, checking and savings accounts
  • Equity in real estate
  • Investments (stocks, bonds, and mutual funds) and annuities
  • IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement accounts (even if they have named beneficiaries)
  • Vehicles, antiques, business interests
  • Household furniture (including antiques) and clothes
  • Life insurance policies (even though they pay out to other people)
  • Jewelry, any kind of collection you have that has a value like a baseball card collection, or a signed first edition of valuable book (e.g., a signed true first edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone can be worth as much as $55,000)

Your estate may include other assets like an insurance settlement you’re expecting, a loan you made to a family member that’s scheduled to be repaid to you, and a future inheritance.

Now you have to figure out the value of each asset and add them up to find the total value of your assets.

Step #2
The next step is to figure out what money you owe (liabilities), and then subtract that from the total value of your assets. Money you owe includes items like outstanding balances on your credit cards or loans, mortgage payments due on your house or vacation home, taxes you owe to the government, and IOUs you haven’t paid off yet to people.

In summary:
total value of assets – total value of liabilities = total estate value

We Can Help
When you make a free, no-obligation initial consultation appointment with us, we’ll provide you with our Estate Planning Worksheet. You can use this tool to outline your assets and their value. Then during the consultation, we’ll review your assets and help you figure out the total value of your estate. We’ll talk about your family, your goals for estate planning, and what estate planning tools would work best for you. Contact us at 617.299.6976 or mkarr@maheritagelawcenter.com now to schedule your free consultation.