What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is really nothing more than a collection of privately drafted documents that deal with issues of incapacity and wealth transfer. Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxies are for use during the lifetime of the maker. A Last Will and Testament is legally dormant until the maker of the Will passes away. Upon passing, the terms of the Will are irrevocable and the document becomes legally enforceable.
A Living Trust is a hybrid of both lifetime powers and continuing authority after the death of the trust maker. Generally, a Living Trust has a section that deals with the incapacity of the maker, and a section that directs how the estate should be distributed upon the passing of the maker.
What happens if there is no Will?
Every person over the age of 18 years has a plan in place that will transfer their estate upon death. If a person dies without a Last Will and Testament, called dying Intestate, there is a statute in Massachusetts that directs how the estate should be distributed.
What happens if there is no Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy?
There is also a legal procedure, called Guardianship or Conservatorship, to appoint a person to make legal and financial decisions if someone is unable to make these decisions for themselves. This court supervised procedure may be avoided by drafting a private Power of Attorney and Health care Proxy.