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Wakefield Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

What is the Massachusetts Medicaid look back period?

Some people who age will need to move into a nursing home for care. Not everyone has the financial backing for this, so many of them will rely on Medicaid and other programs to help them cover the cost of long-term care.

One thing that some individuals might not realize is that there are strict requirements in place for those who need to get Medicaid assistance. There are income and asset limits to ensure that only those who truly need help receive these benefits.

Side-stepping some common estate planning problems

People thinking about writing a will or any other estate documents will want to make sure everything is in order for their heirs. Estate planning in Massachusetts should be comprehensive. In other words, an estate plan needs to ensure they have all the documents they need and that everything is properly documented for beneficiaries. There are common problems heirs may have with estates, but there are also ways a testator can bypass those problems for beneficiaries.

Having estate planning documents in order is of no use if no one knows where to find them. Testators need to make sure their heirs know where the documents can be located. The second issue is regarding a will that doesn't give enough information. The more detailed these documents are, the better, and estate planning documents must be updated as life circumstances change. There could be big problems for loved ones if the will on hand does not match the intended beneficiaries. 

Making the decision regarding trusts in an estate plan

Estate plans are most efficient when they contain all the necessary documents pertaining to a person's particular situation. Some Massachusetts residents might find that including trusts in a comprehensive estate plan could be worth their while. The first order of business is finding out whether a trust would be useful. If so, what type of trust would be best, and who is to be named trustee?

If a trust is in order, a grantor has to decide on a time frame. Should the trust take effect immediately or when the grantor dies? Should the trust be irrevocable or revocable? These are questions that may be best answered in consultation with an estate planning attorney. Also, choosing a trustee takes some thoughtful consideration since the person should have some financial acumen, be trustworthy and will have the time to devote to administering the trust.

Guardianships and conservatorships, what's the difference?

Sometimes, people need assistance making decisions or managing their property because they are incapable of doing so under the law. In Massachusetts, guardianships and conservatorships allow for personal representatives to be named for these people. What is the difference between the two?

The role of a guardian is to ensure his or her ward's needs are met and the ward's financial responsibilities are being appropriately handled. A person in this role may also have the ability to make certain medical decisions for his or her ward. The role of a conservator is much the same as a guardian. The main difference between the two comes down to how much money/assets the ward possesses. A conservatorship would be granted if the ward has significant assets that need handling.

Building a financial emergency kit during estate planning

It is always wise to be prepared for things that might not happen. When Massachusetts residents begin doing some estate planning, experts say they should also consider putting into place a financial emergency kit for their families, just in case. Those types of emergencies could include weather-related events, job losses, health-related events or having to care for an ill family member.

Much like a first-aid kit for injuries, a financial emergency kit should contain some necessary elements, such as copies of those estate planning documents -- a will, powers of attorney, health care directives, instructions on how to manage a business for business owners, etc. Copies of any insurance policies, tax information, and documents regarding investments, bank accounts and retirement funds should also be a part of the package. Photos and videos of any assets in the home would also be wise to have in the kit.

Can I help my parents preserve their assets?

One major concern of adult children of elderly parents is that their parents' assets will all be drained in order to pay for the care and medical treatment they may later need. That's a legitimate concern for sure.

But the good news is that there is a way to both protect what your parents worked all their lives to accumulate and also ensure that they receive the care and treatment they need when that time comes.

Estate planning, there is no time like the present

The quote by Benjamin Franklin, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today," can apply to so many areas of your life. There are numerous things you know you should probably do but feel there is no urgency to do them. Estate planning is one of those things that many Massachusetts residents put off, sometimes until it is too late.

When it comes to estate planning, there is no time like the present. It doesn't matter where you are in life, whether you are a single college student, newly married, in the stage where you have minor children at home or are entering your golden years, estate planning is a good thing to get done. Why? It is all about personal and family protection.

Can I modify a trust after it has been created?

When going through the estate planning process, the hope is to set something up that will not only offer the protections one desires but will also stand the test of time. For many Massachusetts residents, setting up a trust is the way to meet these goals. However, some worry that doing so will lock them into something they may not be happy with down the line. The good news is, a trust may be modified if needed.

The person to whom the trust belongs should be able to modify it as he or she sees fit at any time. He or she can do this for a variety of reasons. Thankfully, those wishing to adjust their trusts do not typically have to go to court to get it done; however, written agreement between the trust owner and beneficiaries may be needed before the modifications can be made.

Reasons to update your will

No part of the estate planning process is a one-and-done kind of thing. These plans must evolve to work with life changes. For example, Massachusetts residents who have taken the time to write wills may want to review and update them for any of the following reasons.

Reason number one: family changes, including the birth of a child, death of a beneficiary or executor, and marriage or divorce. Each of these is a major life event that can affect how one wants his or her estate ultimately administered. It only takes a few minutes to make sure one's will works with his or her current family situation.

Need help getting through probate administration?

If you recently lost a loved one, the last thing you want to do while grieving your loss is to figure out how to close out his or her estate. However, it has to be done at some point -- sooner rather than later is best. The probate administration process can be challenging to get through, particularly if you are unfamiliar with how it works in Massachusetts. Thankfully, you do not have to struggle through it alone.

While not required, it is possible to retain legal counsel to assist you throughout the probate process. An experienced attorney will be able to guide you through each step to ensure you have taken care of everything. Your attorney will also be able to help you should any problems arise -- such as will contests, no will, issues with creditors, executor or trustee problems, and a number of other things.