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Wakefield Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

Estate administration carries significant responsibility

Creating an estate plan is becoming more widely recognized as a necessity as the consequences of not having one are made evident by several famous people who died without having a will or other documents in place. In addition to having an estate plan, a person may be called upon to be an executor of a will in Massachusetts. Estate administration comes with its own set of responsibilities.

The executor has the responsibility of carrying out the terms of the will. This includes making distributions from the estate and verifying that necessary taxes on those distributions have been accounted for. In some circumstances, the estate may need to be advertised in part to alert creditors who may have a claim against the estate.

Estate planning is vital for families of all kinds

The makeup of a family has changed considerably over the years in Massachusetts and around the nation. As couples divorce and remarry, blended families have become more and more common where the makeup of a family can consist of half and stepsiblings. Estate planning, particularly for older couples, should take all of this into account in order to ensure that one's final wishes are carried out as intended. In addition to blended families, more and more older couples are living together without getting married. A recent study shows that the number of couples aged 50 or older who are living together but not married has increased 75% since 2007.

Estate planning for older couples who are living together is vital for a couple of reasons. If there are no children involved a plan may be fairly simple. Its primary goal may be to ensure that the couple are each other's beneficiaries so that assets are bequeathed to each other. If there are family members, establishing a trust can help ensure that assets are distributed according to one's final wishes. A trust also allows a person to designate a power of attorney and a health care proxy which grants the designated person the ability to make decisions for one in the event of physical or mental incapacity.

Estate planning can be a truly meaningful gift

People in Massachusetts lead very busy lives. Days seem to run together and another year can pass in the blink of an eye. Indeed, the end of the year is approaching and many people take the opportunity to review past accomplishments and plan for the new year. No one likes to contemplate the new year being a person's last, but the fact remains that no one knows how much time one is allotted and as such, estate planning is not a task that should be indefinitely delayed.

As the season of gift-giving approaches it is worth considering the value of a comprehensive plan to one's loved ones. Failure to establish a plan means that a person faces the risk of dying intestate, meaning without a will. Not only can this cause additional grief for loved ones it can also cost one's estate a significant amount of money.

5 qualities every healthcare proxy should have

Like many residents of the Boston area, you have enjoyed a healthy and active lifestyle. As you age, though, you may acquire a variety of chronic or other medical conditions. Eventually, you may become incapable of choosing the correct approach to your own healthcare. 

In Massachusetts, you can name a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions on your behalf. While state law prohibits certain individuals from serving as your proxy, you have wide latitude in choosing one. Nevertheless, some individuals make better proxies than others. Here are five qualities every healthcare proxy should have: 

Priceless Gift of Estate Planning

Another year is winding down, and people in Massachusetts are beginning to think about the holidays and their gift lists. Also, as another year comes to an end and the holiday season approaches, people may begin contemplating the passing of time and their own mortality. While estate planning can be a difficult task to face, having a comprehensive plan in place can be a priceless gift to loved ones.

Facing one's own mortality can be difficult, and it leads many people to procrastinate the task of compiling an estate plan. If one considers who ultimately benefits from having a plan in place, those thoughts can serve as a motivator to get it done. For example, who will care for one's minor children or one's pets if an unforeseen tragedy occurs? This is particularly important for parents of young children to consider.

Trusts and how they can aid estate planning

The language of estate planning can be confusing to some and can serve as a deterrent to putting a plan in place in Massachusetts. This need not be the case. Two terms that are tossed about a lot in the estate planning world are wills and trusts. Both can be very effective tools when putting an estate plan together.

A will largely controls what a person wants to happen to his or her property after his or her passing. Trusts allow for more flexibility and can include measures to be taken while a person is still alive but may be physically or mentally incapacitated. Living trusts can offer someone a certain amount of flexibility and control over assets contained in the trust, depending on the type of trust he or she creates.

What is the best way to choose a guardian for your children?

Visiting the topic of death and what would happen to the well-being of your children if you and your spouse were to pass away can be a difficult discussion to have. However, despite the heaviness of the topic, it is critical that you consider who in Massachusetts would care for your children and raise them into adulthood if something tragic were to happen to you and your spouse while your children were still dependent on the two of you. 

A guardian is a person you will choose to take over the parenting of your children if something had happened to you and your spouse. This person will be responsible for providing financially for your children, giving them a place to live, providing emotional support and ensuring that adequate educational opportunities are available to them. It will surely take some time for you and your spouse to decide who the two of you trust enough to be able to give a stable life that is similar to the one they experience now. 

Do you have a pet trust?

While you may use your will to provide for your heirs by distributing your assets among them, Massachusetts law does not allow you to leave money to your pets as a gift. However, you may still ensure that there are resources to care for your pets by creating a trust. Establishing a pet trust may allow you to name a person to take over as a guardian after you pass away and ensure there is enough money to give your pet the level of care you desire for them.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund provides information on pet trusts and how to establish one. The ALDF recommends creating a trust for your pet rather than just listing your pet in your will in the same manner as your human beneficiaries. In most cases, a court will not allow you to simply distribute property to a pet as you may to a spouse or child. By creating a trust, you may ensure that the funds you leave for your pet's care will accomplish that purpose.

Ademption of a will in Massachusetts

Abatement of a will in Massachusetts is the process of reducing the dollar amount of certain gifts so that the estate can cover the promises it makes. This is somewhat common due to the fact that fortunes fluctuate. The original terms of a will may not apply to the real-world situation of settling the estate.

Various states have different rules for this process. This article will provide a hypothetical example of abatement and then look at the order of abatement in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

When is the best time to make estate plans?

Estate planning may sound like something only relevant to those who are in their later years of life or who have accumulated a lot of wealth. If you feel that neither applies to you yet, you may find yourself putting off estate planning until it seems more appropriate.

Unfortunately, this can leave your family in trouble if a sudden accident leaves you incapacitated, or if you should suddenly pass away. You need to be ready for any event, no matter what stage of life you are in, so the best time to consider estate planning is now. When "now" is in relation to your age affects what plans you should make.