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Boston Elder Law Blog

Creating wills can help Massachusetts residents protect family

It is not unusual for individuals, including those in Massachusetts, to have misconceptions about estate planning. They may think that they do not need wills because they are not wealthy, only have a few assets or that they can wait until they are older to create a plan. However, these notions may not prove true as anyone at any time could need an estate plan. 

It was recently reported that a survey conducted by a wealth management company indicated that at least half of those surveyed do not have an estate plan. Additionally, one quarter of the married individuals who participated in the survey stated that only one spouse knows where important documents are kept. Both of these results could present issues for individuals when the time comes to address an estate.

Health care planning may avoid unexpected cost burdens

A situation that results in an individual needing long-term care could happen to anyone. This type of incident could result from a serious illness, mental deterioration or serious injury that leads to a person losing the ability to properly care for him or herself. When faced with such circumstances, health care planning could help avoid unexpected costs associated with that care.

Many Massachusetts residents may have an understandable concern about dealing with this type of expense. Though they may have Medicare or believe that Medicaid will take care of the costs of a long-term nursing home stay or care at another facility, that may not be the case. Medicare will only cover a short-term stay, and Medicaid will only assist individuals who qualify for that type of coverage.

Not all Massachusetts residents want to avoid the probate process

The proceedings that surround the administration of an estate can sometimes be met with mixed opinions. Some individuals may think that the probate process should be avoided at all costs, while others believe the proceedings to be a necessary part of settling an estate. Massachusetts residents may wish to find out more information on the process to determine how they want to approach it.

Though avoiding probate certainly is an option, some individuals may choose to go through the proceedings nonetheless. In many cases, simply going ahead with the process could avoid unnecessary costs associated with circumventing probate. Additionally, the decisions made during probate are final, and everyone involved can gain a clear understanding of how the estate's administration will be handled.

Does your Massachusetts will need to updated?

If you've already created a last will, living trust or estate plan, you may feel like you've already taken the necessary steps to protect your loved ones if you die or become incapacitated. Unfortunately, a last will or estate plan isn't something you put together and then forget.

Life happens, and situations can change rapidly. Sometimes, it's obvious that you need to update your will. Other times, you can put it off or not realize that you should be making changes. That procrastination, however, could have dire effects on your estate and your loved ones if something were to happen to you in the meantime.

Joint ownership may not mean complete asset protection

When deciding how to attend to estate details, Massachusetts residents have many options they could utilize. Because there are a number of routes parties could follow when creating their estate plans, it may be wise for individuals to ensure that they understand how helpful certain tools are. Without the correct information, some parties could be using an option that is not as beneficial for asset protection as they think.

For instance, some individuals may think they can protect their assets and avoid detailed estate planning by simply creating joint ownership of their property. However, if parties do not create that ownership with right of survivorship for the property, those assets would still have to go through probate. With the right of survivorship, the surviving owner automatically obtains the property.

Attending to the probate process falls to Massachusetts executors

After the death of a loved one, Massachusetts residents often have many tasks to which they must attend. Among those tasks is completing the probate process for the deceased loved one's estate. Various aspects go into this process, and some surviving family members may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of having to deal with the legal proceedings probate entails. 

Whether appointed by the court or named in a will, a personal representative or executor will likely carry out the majority of the estate-related duties. The executor must present the will to the court in order for the document to be validated and move through the probate proceedings. If there was no will, probate begins with the court appointing a personal representative for the estate. 

Massachusetts parents may be interested in a special needs trust

Having a child with special needs can add a different element to an individual's life. Therefore, when considering end-of-life plans, Massachusetts residents may wish to consider adding additional elements to their estate plans. A special needs trust could be one potential option to consider as individuals work to create their plans.

Estate plans can play a significant role in how a special needs child is cared for in the event of one or both parents' deaths. Therefore, individuals may wish to ensure that they create a will so that their estates are distributed as they see fit. Additionally, a will can be used to name guardians for minor children, and parties may be able to petition the court to name a guardian for a special needs person over the age of 18. 

Powers of attorney can play vital role in estate plans

When planning for end-of-life arrangements, many decisions need to be addressed. Powers of attorney can play a significant role later in life, and therefore, Massachusetts residents may wish to appoint their agents as part of their estate plans. Appointing more than one agent may prove useful, as it spreads out the responsibilities as well as allows the agents to keep each other in check when it comes to decision making. 

Of course, trust is among the most important aspects when individuals make their agent decisions. Because these individuals will handle financial affairs and other personal aspects, trustworthiness and a sense of responsibility are key to having effective agents. It may also be important to remember that incapacitation could occur at any time, and trusting those agents now and in the future is vital. 

Could a Massachusetts estate need more than one probate process?

Taking advantage of estate planning can help many individuals get their affairs in order. By having certain documents and information organized, Massachusetts residents can better prepare their estates for the probate process or to avoid the process altogether. Of course, in order to fully make the necessary preparations, individuals likely need to understand what probate is. 

The probate proceedings that most individuals have a slight familiarity with is a legal process that takes place in the area where the deceased person lived or held assets. During the proceedings, the court typically validates the decedent's will and presides over the distribution of property designated in the will. However, probate could potentially be avoided if individuals utilize trusts, or accounts that hold property apart from the estate. 

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