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Wakefield Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

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.

Probate litigation: Mental capacity issues

If a Massachusetts resident wishes to execute an estate plan, he or she must be of sound mind. Probate litigation often involves heirs or beneficiaries who contest a will based upon evidence of the diminished mental capacity of the estate owner. There are several celebrity cases where such issues have been a central focus.

Rosa Parks is one of the most famous women in U.S. history because of her courageous actions on a public bus during the height of the civil rights movement. Sadly, her loved ones have been in and out of court for more than 10 years since her death, fighting over her estate. Her nephews and nieces challenged a trust, as well as their aunt's last will and testament, asserting that she was not of sound mind when she signed the documents and was unduly influenced by another party or parties. They each settled for a 20% portion of assets, but have since gone back to court regarding a missing coat that Parks wore on the Alabama bus and also issues regarding possible mismanagement of her estate.

There is no time like the present for estate planning

One of the many reasons why a Massachusetts adult may delay making plans for the future is lack of time. Estate planning is easy to set aside when busy, young and healthy. However, global events have many people at home and spending more time together, which makes it an opportune time to start the estate planning process. To begin crafting a thoughtful plan for the future, it is helpful to consider what tools may be necessary for the individual situation.

The most basic step in the estate planning process is drafting a will. Through a will, an adult can decide what will happen to his or her property and even designate a guardian for minor children. This is an important step, but some may need more protection than a will can provide. Others may benefit from also establishing a trust, a tool that allows a person to set aside and protect assets for a specific person or purpose. There are many different types of trusts.

Why estate planning is critical for every adult

One reason why Massachusetts adults should consider planning for the future is the financial security this planning process should provide. Estate planning allows an adult to plan what will happen to his or her assets in the future and make other decisions that could be important down the road. It's more important than many realize, even if they are young, healthy and do not have significant wealth.

Estate planning is particularly important for parents of minor children. These documents allow parents to designate who they would want to care for their children in case of their deaths. They can also set assets aside for their care and support. Failing to do this could leave this incredibly difficult and complicated decision up to the discretion of the court.

Estate planning mistakes can be costly for Massachusetts family

Having an estate plan is an important step for every Massachusetts adult, regardless of income, age and health status. Even with a plan, certain mistakes and missteps can cause significant complications for a family when trying to settle an estate. When walking through the estate planning process, it is prudent to take steps to avoid common mistakes that could potentially lead to complications down the road.

One of the most common estate planning mistakes is failing to have a plan in the first place. If an adult dies without a will or basic estate planning measures in place, a probate court will decide what happens to assets and money. The court may also have to decide who will act as guardian for any minor children. It is especially important for a parent to have plans in place regarding the care of his or her kids.

How will the SECURE Act affect your estate planning goals?

You have worked hard throughout your life and now have significant assets, including real property, a stock portfolio and retirement accounts.

Following your demise, your estate planning goals include the distribution of the funds in your IRA to your sister. Will the new SECURE Act require you to rethink plans for her inheritance?

Guardianship case highlights need for advance planning

There are times in a person's life when he or she may no longer be able to make personal choices. Perhaps that person doesn't have family able or living nearby to care for him or her. In this instance, a Massachusetts court may appoint someone to be that person's guardian. A guardianship is meant to protect the subject of the agreement and ensure that he or she receives needed care. Unfortunately, there are times when even the professionals don't hold to that duty

Recently, a court-appointed guardian from out of state lost her appeal regarding a judge's previous ruling. The court found that she was in violation of state regulations with several of her clients. She stands accused of filing "do no resuscitate" orders on clients who did not ask for such, nor did any of their family members. When one of her clients died, she was arrested for aggravated abuse and neglect of an elderly person. 

Estate planning topics to consider after becoming a parent

Parents in Massachusetts and elsewhere who have recently welcomed a child into the family may feel it essential to take all possible measures to protect his or her future. With a variety of topics to address and a list of new responsibilities to handle, knowing the necessary steps to take to achieve this goal might not always be such an easy task. By exploring the available estate planning options, new parents may become better prepared to create a strategy focused on safeguarding the futures and meeting the needs of their children.

There may be a variety of topics for parents to consider upon celebrating the arrival of a child. Those with existing plans may find it vital to consider reviewing beneficiary information and making the necessary modifications to update information. Another option that could prove beneficial may involve choosing someone to act as guardian to the kids, as knowing someone will be there to look after them in the event of an unexpected death could provide a sense of peace.