Estate planning is one of the most important things you can do for the future of your family. It not only provides for your own peace of mind, but it also helps your heirs understand your wishes. Although every estate plan is unique, there are key elements that should be included in every estate plan. Here is a summary of 5 key components to estate plans in Massachusetts.
1 – A Will
A will is probably the most basic component of any estate plan. It outlines how your assets should be distributed among your heirs and who should be responsible for administering that process. In Massachusetts, the person entrusted with administering your estate is called a Personal Representative (commonly known as an executor). A will is useful in expressing your wishes, but it will not avoid probate (which is the court process for settling an estate). We will cover this topic further below.
2 – Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney gives a trusted individual, designated by you, the power to manage your affairs. This applies not only to death, but also to serious illness or disability. For example, if you were in a comma, you would not be able to complete critical tasks such as paying your mortgage or utilities. Someone with a durable power of attorney would have the legal right to handle those day-to-day finances in addition to other important decisions. If you lack a power of attorney, the courts may designate one for you. The person chosen may not necessarily be someone that you would have chosen yourself.
3 – Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy allows someone else to make decisions regarding your medical care, when you are unable to make those decisions yourself. Obviously, it should be someone that you deeply trust since their decisions could be life altering. That person should also know your preferences when it comes to medical care and life saving measures. Without this document, your family may end up debating what should be done and who should have the final decision. Such disputes could lead to a legal battle and can tear families apart.
4 – Trust
One of the most useful and key components of estate plans in Massachusetts are trusts. There are many different types of trusts, such as revocable living trusts or irrevocable trusts. Each serves a different purpose and can accomplish different goals. Trusts can protect assets, give you more control over distribution of assets, minimize taxes, etc. Most importantly, trusts can help your estate avoid probate, allowing assets to reach your heirs more quickly. Given the complexity of trusts, be sure to consult with an attorney.
Assistance with Key Components fo Estate Plans in Massachusetts
Based on your personal circumstances, family dynamics, and ultimate goals, your estate planning attorney can provide valuable advice on how to structure your estate plan and which components to include. Contact Martino Law Group to schedule a consultation. We can assist with all of your estate planning needs.