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Estate planning in today???s diverse family environment

The family dynamic in Massachusetts and elsewhere around the country is changing. This is particularly important to be aware of as people approach retirement age. In prior generations, the majority of people entering retirement and approaching old age relied, to some extent, on the aid and support of their families and particularly their children. More and more people are now deciding not to marry and many married couples are opting not to have children. This has significant implications for estate planning.

People entering their golden years without children may find themselves looking to professionals or even friends to fill the role of family. There are many issues that older people may need assistance with and they may not be sure of where to turn. One concern is designating someone to make decisions on one's behalf in the event of mental or physical incapacity.

One option for delegating decisions is a financial durable power of attorney. This allows a designated person to make decisions regarding finances and can be as comprehensive or limited as the person granting the power of attorney designates. A similar process can delegate medical decisions to another individual and is known as a medical directive or medical power of attorney.

Decisions regarding one's financial and medical well-being in the event of becoming incapacitated should not be made lightly in Massachusetts. Consider the options available such as a close friend, a niece or nephew or a trusted professional experienced in estate planning. Discuss the responsibilities to be taken on with those close to one and make sure the person is comfortable with what is being asked of them.

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