Estate Planning

Estate planning is the method of outlining how you want your affairs to be conducted when you are no longer able to conduct them yourself. The four typical goals of estate planning include putting the right person in charge to conduct your affairs at the right time for you, benefitting the people or organizations you wish to benefit from your estate, avoiding the probate administration process as much as possible, and minimizing or eliminating estate and other taxes as much as possible. The following documents work together to achieve those goals according to your wishes.

Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament allows you to communicate your wishes upon your passing. Without drafting your own Last Will and Testament, your estate will be divided in accordance with the law, which may be inconsistent with your wishes.

A Last Will and Testament principally addresses (1) who will be in charge of carrying out your affairs and (2) who will benefit from your estate. The person you choose to be in charge of your affairs is now called a Personal Representative or “PR”, which is the new term for “Executor” or “Administrator”. Moreover, you can give your PR powers in addition to those provided by default law. When choosing who, and how, to benefit your chosen beneficiaries there are many options as well. Please contact us to talk about the many options available.

Additional aspects which can be addressed in a Last Will and Testament include naming a guardian and conservator for minor children in the event of your untimely death, providing for the care of a loved pet, establishing a continuing trust benefitting your beneficiaries, and other aspects we can discuss in a meeting.

Revocable Trusts
Although a Last Will and Testament can provide all those great benefits, the process of making a Last Will and Testament effective (called “proving the will”) after your death is burdensome. In sum, the process is slow, costly (fees for attorneys court filings and publication in the newspaper) and all open to the public.

In order to avoid the delay, costs and the publicity of probate, you can establish a revocable trust (sometimes called a “living trust” or “inter vivos trust”). A revocable trust works with your Last Will and Testament to do most of the heavy lifting and help to avoid the probate process, during your lifetime due to illness or incapacity, and after your death. No delay, court fees, or publication in the newspaper is necessary.

Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney designates someone to act on your behalf with regard to financial, and some legal, affairs during your lifetime. Powers of Attorney can be drafted around your wishes and you can choose when it is effective (durable, or springing), who will serve as your agent, and what powers your agent will have the ability to exercise.

Health Care Proxy
A Health Care Proxy, sometimes referred to as a Medical Power of Attorney, is the document where you appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

Living Will
A Living Will is a directive outlining your wishes for extraordinary medical care in the event you are unable to communicate your wishes.

Homestead Declaration
Homestead protection in Massachusetts is a certain protection of a person’s principal residence from creditor claims. Undeclared homestead protection of $125,000 is provided automatically. A Declared Homestead can protect up to $500,000, and there is additional coverage available for Elderly Declared Homestead of $500,000 for each declarant, meaning that if two elderly people file Elderly Homestead Declarations, the protection doubles to $1,000,000. Similarly, a Disabled Homestead Declaration can add to the aggregate creditor protection available as well.