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.

What Are the Most Essential Estate Planning Documents?

9estate planningWhen you approach the subject of estate planning in Massachusetts, you should know that it might look a little different for everyone. What works for one does not work for another because the strategies and tools of estate planning are aligned with your specific needs.

That being said, there are several documents that may be beneficial for consideration as you meet with your Massachusetts estate planning attorney. There are three major documents that are likely to be an overall part of your planning strategy, each helping you accomplish specific goals.

To start with, your last will and testament is frequently the cornerstone of your planning. It’s your chance to outline how you wish to pass your assets on to others. This helps avoid some of the downsides of the probate process while also giving you the chance to make these important decisions and protect them.

Second, think about the benefits of a power of attorney. This document allows you to name someone else who will have legal authority to act in your stead if you become incapacitated. You might also use a limited power of attorney, which specifics certain instances in which the agent is authorized to act.

Finally, a Health Care Proxy and a Living Will, often called an advanced directive in other states, are important documents to consider if you have specific wishes about your healthcare. If you have specific feelings about whether or not you want life-sustaining activities to stop if there is no chance of your recovery, your advanced directive is the place to articulate this. Without a document like this, your family members may disagree on the options and it can make a difficult time even more challenging for them.

These three documents are just a starting point. You’ll need to speak with your Massachusetts estate planning attorney to determine if there are other tools and strategies from which you can benefit.

How Is a Living Will Different From a Will?

Last Will ConceptIf you are thinking about planning ahead for your estate in Massachusetts, you probably have many questions about the most appropriate tools to use. One of the most common questions for individuals who have not spent much time with estate planning in the past has to do with how a living will is different from a will. These terms are frequently misunderstood as meaning one and the same. Read on to discover the distinction and how you can use one or both in your estate plan.

What’s a Living Will?

A living will, however, only addresses your healthcare concerns. It’s an official statement that you do or do not want your death artificially prolonged in the event that you have a terminal injury or illness, or in a situation where your death appears imminent and the medical treatment you are currently receiving from physicians is only prolonging the process of death. A living will frequently works alongside a healthcare proxy in Massachusetts.

The living will outlines official guidance to the appointed healthcare agent in the event that your healthcare agent is ever needed to make a life or death decision.

In Massachusetts there is no specific statute that details how a living will is created or what language is needed. However, having a Living Will to expand on the information in your Health Care Proxy gives your agent and a clear understanding of your wishes.

What’s a Last Will and Testament?

Your last will and testament, on the other hand, is your written declaration of how you want your assets distributed after you pass away.  Your will must be executed in accordance with relevant Massachusetts state laws. Both of these documents can be drafted and reviewed by a Massachusetts estate planning attorney, but it’s important to understand how they operate differently and function as part of your estate plan rather than as two similar documents.

Should We Use Life Insurance to Fund a Special Needs Trust?

insurance policyGuardians or parents of special needs children have many different challenges and special concerns when it comes to estate planning. Some of the most important concerns have to do with what will happen to the adult child after the parents or guardian passes away. Thinking ahead involves careful consideration of the best tool for protecting your loved one’s interests without compromising any of the other benefits that your loved one may rely on. This is why you should consult with an estate planning attorney in Massachusetts as soon as possible about your options to learn more.

Some Tips for Selecting Insurance

There are several different kinds of insurance that can be helpful for individuals planning ahead for a special needs beneficiary. One of the most important aspects of opting to use an insurance policy to fund a special needs trust is ensuring that the appropriate death benefit has been linked to policy.

Protect Government Benefits

Government benefits could be in jeopardy if the special needs beneficiary is named as a person instead of having a trust created for their benefit. Life insurance can be a critical component of funds to be put into a trust for the benefit of a loved one with special needs. Planning ahead for a special needs beneficiary involves important consideration questions about not jeopardizing the beneficiary’s eligibility for government programs. Consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney about your options is the best way to avoid problems.

Why Tax Time is the Perfect Window for Reviewing Your Will

Time for taxes with moneyWhen you’re going through your financial paperwork for the last year and preparing to file your taxes, it’s a good idea to take a look at any other legal documents that you have to ensure that they are written properly and still carry out the wishes that you want.
What Should I Review at Tax Time?
Some examples could include beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and your will. Make sure that the individuals you have named in any official estate planning documents are still willing and available to help.
Life Changes and the Passage of Time Necessitate Review

Things might have changed in your life over the course of the past year and these changes should be reflected in your estate planning documents. For example, one common area that is overlooked after an individual goes through a divorce is updating all of the beneficiary designations and estate planning documents that name your former spouse as an authorized agent. Of course, after a divorce you will want to update these but this is not the only event in your life that warrants a significant change.
Accomplish All Your Review at Once

Getting all of your paperwork out of the way at the same time ensures that you don’t have to think about it for a while and gives you the peace of mind that you know your documents are there to protect you and your needs for the year to come. Set up a consultation with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney to talk more about making these changes to your documents.