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Wakefield Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

DIY wills can lead to complications in the future

Estate planning is prudent and practical for every Massachusetts adult, and some may look for ways to save time and money during this process. One way someone may try to do this is by drafting these documents independently and without relying on the guidance of legal and financial professionals. This is not the ideal way to draft wills or any other important legal documents, and this approach can lead to complications in the future.

One can find nearly anything on the internet, including estate planning advice. Some websites even offer to draft a will for a fee, only requiring a person to input his or her information in the blanks. This may seem easier, but going this route probably does not offer the full amount of protection needed. DIY websites do not allow for a personal approach nor do they account for unique circumstances that should be included in the terms of an estate plan.

Estate planning in the digital age

The 21st century has opened a new can of worms regarding estate plans. Now on the estate planning menu for many Massachusetts residents are digital assets. Many things have been digitized and not everything everyone owns is in a hard copy format. Anything online that a person owns is considered to be a digital asset. 

These assets could include blogs, vlogs, social media pages and websites. Also, much of a person's finances are now managed online. Banking can be done online as well as things like overseeing investment portfolios. And then there are also personal assets stored online, such as photographs and videos. People need to be just as mindful of these assets when estate planning as they are of other assets.

The kind of trust you should establish depends on your goals

Chances are you have been busy either with your corporate responsibilities or in building a successful family business and you continue to accumulate assets.

Perhaps you are not far from retirement and want to take a serious look at estate planning. Trusts are among the many helpful tools, but which is best for your circumstances, revocable or irrevocable?

Estate planning tools for different life stages

Massachusetts adults can benefit from making plans and looking to the future, regardless of age or income status. Estate planning is not something reserved only for the old and wealthy, but it is useful for individuals of all life stages. Having a plan in place will provide certain benefits and protections that may be specific to the individual stage of life or unique objectives. 

Upon reaching the age of 18, an adult will benefit from drafting certain documents, such as a power of attorney, living will and health care proxy. Even at such a young age, an adult has the right to decide what type of medical care he or she may want in case of incapacitation. After marriage and the birth of children, it may be necessary to draft a will and other documents that will allow that individual to determine the distribution of personal assets in case of death.

Estate planning documents include more than just a will

There is one thing people can do before they pass on to make things easier on their loved ones. No Massachusetts resident likes to think about his or her own demise, but taking some time out to work on estate planning documents may provide some comfort in knowing family members won't be saddled with the task of sorting through personal and financial effects. There is much more to an estate plan that a will.

There are some must-have documents that should be included in an estate plan; otherwise, a testator's loved ones could run into problems. Without the proper documents, things might end up in probate court, which could mean assets being distributed in a way a testator would not have wanted them to be. The integral documents include: a will and possibly a trust, a durable power of attorney, a letter of intent, a health care power of attorney and guardianship designations, if warranted.

Trusts can be an important estate planning tool

When a person passes away, loved ones left behind will look at his or her will and other estate planning documents to determine what to do with assets and personal property. Having a plan is important, but a simple will may not be enough for a Massachusetts adult who has specific goals for his or her estate. Trusts can be a useful tool that allows an individual to set aside assets, protect them and designate them for a specific purpose.

Simply designating something to an heir through a will may not be sufficient. There are many reasons why this may not be the most effective estate planning approach. However, through a trust, it is possible to set aside assets that can be given directly to the beneficiary according to the terms of the trust without going through the probate process. The trustee will oversee this process and be responsible for making sure assets from the trust are distributed properly.

Without meeting certain requirements, wills may not be valid

When Massachusetts adults consider planning for the future, they may draft certain documents. Through wills and other tools, they can outline what they want to happen to their personal property after they pass, name a guardian for minor children, protect assets for the future and more. Even in thorough estate plans, certain mistakes can invalidate plans or make things difficult for beneficiaries. To avoid unpleasant surprises, it is prudent to make thoughtful decisions while planning or carefully review existing estate plans.

One common estate planning mistake is not understanding the plan. Every adult has the right to decide what will happen with personal property and health care decisions, but it's important to completely understand what the terms mean and how they could impact an individual and family member in the future. Another common misstep is failing to update beneficiary designations after life changes. Divorce, remarriage, a death in the family and other life events could necessitate changes in an existing estate plan.

The many benefits of estate planning at any stage of life

It's impossible to predict the future, but there are things a Massachusetts adult can do to make sure his or her long-term interests are secure. One of these things is thoughtful and thorough estate planning. Some assume this is not necessary because they are young or because they are not wealthy, but the reality is that planning for the future is smart for every adult at any stage of life.

One of the main benefits of estate planning is that it protects the interests of loved ones and beneficiaries. When it's time to settle an estate, the plan will dictate how assets are distributed, and it can reduce the chance of a lengthy and complex legal battle. It provides the opportunity for an adult to have the final say in what happens to personal property and what type of medical care he or she prefers. It is also possible to set aside and protect assets for a specific purpose, such as charitable giving.

Diagnosis of brain disease may necessitate estate planning steps

Certain illnesses can progress to a point where a patient is no longer able to make decisions independently or express wishes regarding health care. This is one reason why estate planning is especially important for those in the earlier stages of degenerative brain diseases. Having plans in place can allow a Massachusetts adult to maintain control over his or her health care and have the final say over what happens to personal property.

When making plans for the future, it is essential to prioritize the potential long-term effects of the disease. This means thinking about what someone with a progressive medical condition could need in months and years ahead regarding financial support and medical care. Planning for disability and even making health care plans is possible with thorough and thoughtful estate planning.