What You Need to Know About the Basics of the Estate Planning Process

If you assume that you don’t have any assets, you could be making the mistake of skipping out on an estate plan entirely. An estate plan is one of the most important collections of documents that you will have and there are many reasons why.

 Every person has an estate with very few exceptions. Even a young child who has a custodial account in his or her name could be considered to have an estate.

If you have anything of value that you want to give to someone else when you pass away, you have an estate. There are several different documents that you need to meet your estate planning goals and you also need to understand in general, the basics of how these all work. This estate planning process includes:

  • Current laws in your state and at the federal level
  • Gift taxes
  • The estate tax system and how it works
  • Trust as a compliment to wills
  • Wills and other essential documents
  • Durable powers of attorney

You need to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney if you have not yet engaged in the process of considering what will happen after you pass away. Estate planning, however, is not only about what happens after you’ve passed away. It is just as much about how you will handle your affairs while you are still alive, including documents like a health care proxy or financial power of attorney. Consult with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney today to learn more.

Key Steps for Preventing Elder Abuse

Unfortunately, elder abuse is a pervasive problem not just in Massachusetts but all over the country. Often the elderly, and especially those who are afflicted with severe conditions are unable to protect themselves or even speak up for themselves. This is why it is imperative for friends and family members to understand the signs of elder abuse and neglect.  Eldery home care

Follow these tips below to take a stand against elder abuse:

  • Give a break to a caregiver so that you can check in on your loved one
  • Visit or call an elderly loved one and make sure to ask how he or she is doing
  • Make notes of your visits with your loved one and record any details out of the ordinary
  • Ask for copies of your loved one’s medical records if you believe that signs of the abuse may be filed there
  • Know the signs of elder abuse and neglect so that you can raise concerns to an elder abuse attorney or an elder law attorney if you believe something is out of the ordinary. Understanding the signs of elder abuse and neglect can help stop abuse early on in the process and prevent others from becoming a victim.

Here is a link to the elder abuse hotline for more information- http://www.mass.gov/elders/service-orgs-advocates/protective-services-program.html

Making the decision about how to care for your elderly parents is a challenging one but it is one that must be undertaken with a particular level of care and compassion. Consult with a Massachusetts elder law attorney today to learn more. Noreen Murphy is passionate about helping seniors with their elder law needs. She was recently inducted into the Arlington Elder Abuse Prevention Hall of Fame for her efforts.

Reasons to Revoke a Will

As you likely know, it’s important to have a valid will in the event that something happens to you. This allows your loved ones to receive assets that you choose when you pass away, and in conjunction with other estate planning strategies, may be important for helping make the process as easy as possible for your family.words last will and testament written on typewriter

That being said, there’s a good chance that your life circumstances might change after you put together your initial will. It’s important to ensure that you already have a relationship with an estate planning attorney if you want to change your will. Having multiple versions of your will can become confusing, and if you’re not careful, it could even open the door for family members to argue that the will entered into probate is invalid.

Here are a couple of reasons why you may wish to consider revoking your will and writing a new one with the help of a Massachusetts estate planning attorney:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • A minor child becoming an adult
  • Winning the lottery or inheriting/receiving a large asset
  • Having more children

What seems like a small mistake on your end could render your new will invalid, so you need to work with your attorney to make sure that it’s clear the new version is accurate and recognized as valid. This is particularly true if you are changing your distributions significantly.

Remember, a will might look like a simple document, but it has big ramifications for your beneficiaries. Make sure yours is correct by working with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney.

Estate Planning Matters for All Ages

There’s a tendency to think that estate planning in Massachusetts is only for someone at or near retirement age. This is based on the premise that estate planning is only for outlining what happens to your belongings after you pass away, but it’s just as important that you plan for your life as it is your death.Financial contract signature

A sudden disability, illness, or accident can raise a lot of legal questions very quickly. Without the appropriate powers of attorney, you leave your family in a difficult situation. While no one wants to think about being incapacitated, it’s an important issue to consider just in case. In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need to activate these power of attorney documents, but, much like an insurance policy, it’s your form of protection in case you do need it.

One of the biggest reasons why people outside of the retirement age bracket need estate planning is to name a guardian for their children. Just as no one wants to think about a sudden accident causing a disability, it’s even harder to think about your own mortality, but it’s likely that you do have strong feelings about who you would like to raise your children if you were not able to do so.

If something does happen to you, this time would be very challenging for your children already. A turbulent and unstable situation could make this process even more difficult for them. That’s why you need to do the homework to ensure that you have fully documented who want to take over. Make sure you have a conversation with this person or people before you put together the documents with your Massachusetts estate planning attorney. Taking responsibility for someone else’s children is a serious matter and it’s a role that should only be given to someone who understands the full implications.

Ready to talk estate planning? Contact a Massachusetts estate planning attorney’s office today.

Hitting the Road for Summer Travel? Make Sure You Accomplish These Estate Planning Steps Before You Go

Whether you’re heading off to the beach or hitting the mountains to enjoy some time with your family, you might feel like estate planning is nowhere on your priority list. It’s difficult to think about your own morbidity, but it’s also important to consider this before you head off on summer travel. Here are five different steps you need to take before hitting the open road or boarding that flight. Closeup of business woman signing documents in a cafe

Check Beneficiary Designations

Make sure that your life insurance, your IRA and your 401(k) plans have accurate beneficiary designations. Since these often do not comply with the terms of your will, it’s good to keep them updated regularly.

Create a Will

It’s relatively easy to put together a will when you consult with an experienced estate planning attorney and it’s something you certainly must have just in case an accident occurs.

Name Guardians for Your Children

Whether or not you choose to make a will – and you certainly should – it is imperative that you name a guardian for your children. Otherwise you may have no say over what happens to your minor children if something were to happen to you and your spouse.

Create Health Care Documents

Death is not the only reason to consider your estate planning options. If something were to happen to you where you become incapacitated, you would want health care documents  in place to articulate your wishes.

Create a Durable General Power of Attorney

A durable general power of attorney is an important document to have established well before you travel. This allows another individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you were to become incapacitated.

Although it’s difficult to think about your estate planning options, it’s a good idea to consult with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney now.

Prince Appears to Be Guilty of One of the Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes

PrinceThere are four primary mistakes that individuals make with regard to their planning and it appears that the late artist Prince, could have been guilty of one of them. These include:
• Having no will
• Forgetting to plan ahead for disability
• Failing to update estate plans regularly
• Failing to set up a trust
It has come to light in recent news that Prince’s sister knows of no existence of a will and this means that Prince’s estate could pass through Minnesota intestacy laws. Without any proper estate planning his estate may have a tax bill of approximately 50% of its worth which is estimated to be about $300 million.
Consulting with an experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorney can help address your concerns not just as it relates to passing on assets to your loved ones but also for identifying strategies that can help minimize your tax bill. Frequently, individuals are surprised to learn that they need more than a will to accomplish their estate planning goals which is where strategies like trusts can be important.
Outlining your estate planning wishes after an initial consultation with an attorney is important but it is just as important to update these estate plans as your life changes. For example, a birth, death, marriage or divorce may be cause for updating your estate planning documents. Set up a regular meeting with your Massachusetts estate planning attorney to learn more about what needs to be updated and the strategies and tools you can use to minimize tax bills.

I Am Concerned That My Family Might Contest My Will. How Can I Avoid This?

Last Will and Testament with Fountain PenMany individuals who are going through the process of putting together their estate planning are doing so not just because they are concerned about outlining their wishes clearly, but also so that they can help family members avoid arguments in the future. Unfortunately, family arguments over what you intended for your property are all too common, as any recent number of celebrity news stories has indicated. There are several different reasons that someone can contest a will in Massachusetts.

There are several different things that you can do to minimize the chances that your family will be able to contest your will. All families experience challenges and sometimes these issues spill over into the management of an estate after you’ve passed away. You can increase the chances of your will being upheld after you pass away by ensuring that your will has been executed properly by an experienced attorney in your state. Working with an attorney instead of using generic templates can help you avoid some of the most common challenges in having your will not seen as valid.

An attorney, however, is familiar with all applicable federal and state laws and can suggest other strategies and information to help you make the most out of your estate planning. Secondly, you can do your part by explaining your decisions to your family while you are still alive.

When you have had this conversation prior to passing away, your family will at least be somewhat familiar with your wishes and less likely to contest it overall. Having a valid will is the most important thing you can do to protect the integrity of your estate and minimize the chances that your loved ones will disagree. Work with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney to learn more.

Baby Boomers Must Be Aware of the Number One Estate Planning Issue Impacting Their Generation

Most people are familiar with the basic tenets of estate planning and understand their benefit. Estate planning, however, is not only about what happens to your assets after you pass away. Instead, it is also about how you plan for your own incapacity as well as any challenges associated with living longer.Baby Boom Generation

Longevity is the number one issue that baby boomers need to be aware of. With more than 3.5 million baby boomers entering retirement every single year, the time to put together your estate planning documents while you are of sound mind is most certainly now.

Demographics in the United States are shifting significantly. By 2050, it is believed that 20% of all Americans will be over the age of 65. At that time, it is expected that the quickest growing demographic in the nation will be individuals aged 85 and above.

Although it is certainly worthwhile to be concerned about long term care and managing chronic diseases, many people are living longer even with chronic diseases that were associated with a higher risk of mortality in the past. For example, more than 90% of seniors today are living with one chronic disease and more than three questers of seniors are living with two or more chronic diseases.

Planning for incapacity is just as important for planning for what happens to your assets after you pass away. Set up a meeting with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney today to make sure you have all of the documents and tools in place to manage your life now and in the future.

Do Unmarried Couples Need Estate Planning?

Estate planningUnfortunately, however, if you fail to recognize that there is a relationship and concerns associated with these two unmarried individuals, you could run the risk that your significant other has zero rights and could be removed financially and personally from your life. There are three key documents that unmarried couples should consider. These include:

  • A Health Care Proxy in which you are able to designate another individual to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
  • A durable power of attorney which allows another individual to step in and manage your finances if you become incapacitated.
  • A will or living trust that allows you to form the basis of your estate plan. Either one or both of these documents may be important for you.

Consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is the first step to determining what documents and strategies may be used by an unmarried couple to protect their interests in the future.

As your needs evolve, having a relationship with an estate planning attorney in Massachusetts can make it easier for you to update your documentation. With marriage, divorce, or the birth of a new child, your estate plan needs to grow as you do.         

When Should I Update My Living Will?

Last Will and TestamentYour living will is one of the most important documents in your Massachusetts estate planning toolbox. It is the companion to your Health Care Proxy. Your Health Care Proxy is the official document that names individuals that you want to step in in the event that you are unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself.

The living will outlines those wishes for your agents and it is something that should be reviewed and updated regularly. Your living will is a personalized document with your individual wishes. Keep in mind that as your life situation or your health changes you may want to update those wishes. There are several times that you may want to consider updating your living will. These include:

  • Learning that you are pregnant
  • Milestone birthdays
  • If you can’t remember what your current living will says
  • If you’ve recently been inspired by a media story about where someone else’ s vague living will has caused problems for family members
  • When family members have gone through a health crisis and you want to ensure that your living will encompasses situations that have happened
  • Before you go into the hospital for any major procedure such as a surgery

Consulting with a knowledgeable Massachusetts estate planning attorney can help you accomplish your goals as it relates to a living will. Since this is one of the most important aspects of your estate planning, it is something that you should take quite seriously. Thankfully, it’s a document easily put together with the help of a lawyer.