Set Aside Some Time at Thanksgiving Dinner to Talk About Estate Plans

Most people getting together with their family for the holiday this next week will enjoy sitting around the table and discussing what has happened in the previous year.

As you approach putting together your holiday newsletter as well, this is a good opportunity to reflect back and think about whether or not your current estate planning documents are in line with your individual needs.

Most families are peaceful enough and enjoy being together enough that discussing these options over Thanksgiving dinner is a great opportunity to introduce long term financial goals and plans. Plus, you can think back over any changes in the recent year that might ultimately alter your estate plans.

It is estimated that 93 million American estates will be transferred to someone else between 2007 and 2061. An approximate $59 trillion will be transferred in those estates. Without proper planning, this could create confusion or even conflicts among loved ones.

If you don’t know where your estate planning documents are kept, however, or if you haven’t updated them recently, now is a good time to set up a meeting with an experienced estate planning lawyer in Massachusetts. You can get your questions answered and get the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve taken a look at your plans and protected your loved ones appropriately.

Make Sure That Life Insurance Is Incorporated Properly in Your Estate Plan

Life insurance is often seen as a supplementary component to an existing estate plan because the proceeds from a life insurance policy that has been kept active could be used to provide liquidity when it is most needed.

Insurance money, for example, could help to keep other assets intact and pay immediate expenses such as an estate tax. Bear in mind that some of the biggest assets you may leave behind to your beneficiaries after you pass away are those that cannot easily be disposed of. It might also take time for family members to come to come to terms with selling or deciding to keep those various assets such as a home.

Life insurance errors can also wreak havoc on your estate plan if you have not properly thought through how to structure your policies. Some of the most common errors include:

  • Carrying an inappropriate amount of insurance.
  • It is important to review your policies once every three years or so.
  • Naming only one person as the beneficiary.
  • Naming the estate as the beneficiary, which officially puts the policy inside your estate.

Your entire estate plan might not revolve around just life insurance, but there’s a good bet that insurance is a component of it. If you’re ready to talk options, contact an experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorney today. Working with a financial advisor and an estate lawyer can help you with these issues.

Giving to Charity is a Common and Worthwhile Goal of Many Estate Planning Meetings

Estate planning laws allow for individuals to donate part or some of an individual’s estate to charity. There are many different reasons why an individual might choose to donate to a charity upon his or her death. For example, in certain situations there may be no family members to inherit an estate’s assets, or the individual may feel a particular commitment to pass on assets to a charity. Having a plan in place can allow the charity to get the most possible benefit.

The bottom line is that this boils down to what is most important for the person engaging in the estate planning process. When thinking about passing on your assets to charity, it is important to set up a meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney.

An estate planning attorney can walk you through all of the potential options for passing on an estate to a charity as well as what makes the most sense both for you and for the charity from the perspective of taxes or maximum assets left behind.

Planning to pass things on to a charity can be simple or complex but it should always be aligned with your individual goals and done under the guidance of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. A Massachusetts estate planning lawyer can help you figure out your next steps so that you can carry out your goals for charitable giving and do this in the most effective way.

One of The Best Things That You Can Do for Your Estate Planning Is to Ask Questions When You Don’t Know the Answers

Many people are unfamiliar with the complex or even simple strategies that may be involved with estate planning. Therefore, it’s a good idea to ask for advice when you’re not sure what to do next. Finding research on the internet or hearing about the experiences of friends is not the same thing as meeting with an experienced attorney to talk about what’s truly best for you.

Every individual needs a unique and customized estate plan based on their individual desires and their plans for both their life and for what will happen after they pass away. Estate planning often involves navigating complex situations such as blended families, caring for a child with special needs, determining what documents you need to have in place in the event you become incapacitated and establishing a long term plan for passing on property inside your will.

Each family and individual is different and a knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you walk through the process and determine the strategies most appropriate for your individual needs. Trying to handle things on your own could lead to costly mistakes that could be problematic for your loved ones after you pass away.

Make sure you think carefully about the benefits of planning ahead as you contemplate your estate planning. The right Massachusetts estate lawyer can be extremely helpful for answering all of your questions and for informing you regarding what to expect.

Common Reasons That a Will Is Contested – Not Being in Line with Applicable State Laws

Putting together a will is certainly something that is worthwhile regardless of the size of your estate. Failing to do so could lead to problems and arguments with your family members after you pass away.

There are several common grounds for these kinds of arguments. One of the most common is that the will wasn’t signed in accordance with applicable state laws. Laws vary from one state to another and it is imperative that your estate planning attorney considers not only federal issues like estate taxes but also specific state wide language and other requirements to ensure that your will is valid.

If someone contests your will after you pass away and is able to prove that the will is invalid, this could cause numerous problems in terms of passing on your assets in the way you intended.

Rather than running the risk of having your will being signed not in accordance with state laws or having other ambiguous language that leads to contention down the road, make sure that your will is updated and reviewed by an estate planning attorney on a regular basis. Speaking with a lawyer is strongly recommended so that you can ensure your individual needs are being protected and included in all of your documents.
Make sure your will has been put together by an attorney in Massachusetts with special consideration given to federal and state laws that may apply to your estate. Set up a meeting with a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer today to discuss this further.

Don’t Make This Estate Planning Mistake with Your Personal Property

You can learn plenty from the experiences of famous individuals who made estate planning blunders such as Martin Luther King Jr or Robin Williams.

A film memorabilia collection owned by Robin Williams has initiated a legal conflict between family members and Martin Luther King’s children fought over his Nobel medal and his Bible.

Unfortunately, personal property is frequently overlooked in the estate planning process. This can lead to plenty of legal conflicts and other conflicts over the future of collectibles, items that have a sentimental value and family heirlooms.

Even if you choose to mention these items in your will or other estate planning documents, they can be challenging for an heir to prove that he or she has the right to own it if another individual disputes the claim. For example, if there are multiple collectibles in contention and you’ve named specific items for certain people, this could generate arguments between family members.

If you have items of sentimental value or that you want to pass on to specific individuals, you should speak with an experienced estate planning attorney.

An estate planning attorney can help you develop an inventory of all of the assets you wish to pass on and include clear detail about how these are to be given to someone else. Doing so can minimize conflicts and put you in a better position going forward.

If you’re ready to talk about how to handle your personal property as well as other assets inside your estate, set up a meeting with a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer today.

Do College Students Really Need an Estate Plan?

Sending an adult child off to college can be an exciting experience and is perhaps the first time that a parent really begins to see the child as an adult. Many college students keep ties to their parents in some way, like staying on a health insurance plan or sharing the cellphone bill. However, one often-overlooked area is that of estate planning for college students.

Although it might seem like this is the first break between parents and children in a legal sense, with your college student now managing many of his or her day-to-day affairs on their own, the law sees your child as an adult when he or she has reached age 18. This could lead to confusion and frustration if a medical emergency happens. As a parent, when the child achieves age 18, a parent loses many of the rights he or she had when the child was a minor.

A parent of an adult child, in most states, will not have access to basic details about the medical needs of the child. A parent can also be excluded from making important medical decisions about the child, too. Once a child reaches age 18, the law recognizes his or her ability to make medical decisions on their own. Thankfully, if this is not desired by you and the child, there are estate planning documents to address these concerns. At a minimum, you may want to consider a health care proxy, HIPAA release, and durable power of attorney.

To discuss your individual situation and which documents may be most appropriate, consult with an experienced Massachusetts estate planning lawyer now to learn more.

 

Where Flexibility Plays a Role in Your Estate Plan

There are many different reasons why it’s imperative to consider flexibility in the estate planning process. First of all, life changes are more common now than ever before. With many people entering in second or even third marriages, providing for children from previous marriages and relationships is often a key concern. This can become an entangled and complex issue legally if you aren’t working with the right estate planning attorney.

Joyful senior stretching his legs in a park

Another reason to maintain flexibility is because older parents who may wish to pass on assets to adult children may also be concerned about the adult child’s ability to control that money.

This is why many individuals facing this uncertainty might set up a meeting with an estate planning attorney to talk about the benefits of using a trust.

Using a trust, parents can place their valuables into the trust during their lifetime, and have greater control over how these assets are distributed. This helps to protect against an adult child who may be a spendthrift or otherwise feel uncomfortable inheriting a large amount of money at once.

This gives the parents peace of mind that the money will be distributed appropriately and that it will reduce the chances of that adult child becoming out of control with his or her spending.

These are just a couple of the benefits of including flexibility in your estate planning. To learn more, reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney today.

 

Estate Planning Documents You Need to Get Familiar With

Estate planning can be as complex or as simple as you need it to be. The best way to protect yourself and to ensure that all your bases are covered is to set up a consultation with an estate planning attorney and to meet with him or her regularly.

As your life changes, you may require more complex estate planning or you may need to update existing documents to reflect the addition of new or the removal of old beneficiaries, as an example.

Here are some of the most common estate planning documents you might encounter and what you need to know about them.

Up first is a basic will. It is certainly the estate planning document most people are familiar with, and for good reason. It is a great way to plan ahead for passing on your property and assets.  Another option you might want to consider is using a trust rather than a will. A trust is a great choice if you want to avoid probate or set up trusts for your children and grandchildren after you are gone.

Next is a durable power of attorney in which you name an agent to act on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Usually, this will cover the management of your financial affairs, but speak to your estate planning attorney about what powers you can list here.

A durable healthcare power of attorney can be used to give someone else the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your wishes.

Finally, your beneficiary designation forms are powerful tools that you should be reviewing annually – at a minimum. You probably have a form for several different accounts, including your IRA, 401(k), and any life insurance policies. Confirm that the primary and alternate beneficiaries are what you want, and make sure the designation forms are with your important papers.

For more information about key estate planning documents you’re likely to need to know about, set up a meeting with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney today.