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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.

If a couple is living together but not married and one of them dies, the lack of an estate plan could result in an unintended outcome. If a person dies without an estate plan in place the estate will most likely be settled by the courts. The court may not consider personal circumstances and other family members could benefit or be left out of a settlement.

Contemplating one's own mortality is not typically a pleasant experience. But if one takes into account the eventuality of what could result because of a failure to plan the task of estate planning may appear less daunting. As the holiday season approaches in Massachusetts, the gift of a comprehensive plan is a wonderful one to consider.

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