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Boston Elder Law Blog

Misconceptions regarding wills could hinder Massachusetts plans

Having misconceptions about estate planning could quickly result in Massachusetts residents feeling as if they do not need to create a plan or cause them to plan incorrectly. Therefore, it is important that individuals interested in creating wills and other documents understand the functions of those documents. Estate planning is important for any adult, regardless of age. 

It is not uncommon for people to have the idea that estate plans should only be created if a person has considerable wealth. This notion is simple untrue as these plans offer many benefits for parties regardless of income or assets. For instance, even if two parents do not have much wealth they hope to distribute after death, they may wish to use their will to name a guardian for their children in circumstances where both parents pass away.

Non-parents can still benefit from creating wills

Having gone through life without having children of their own, some Massachusetts residents may wonder who will get their assets after death. While some parties may consider simply letting the state distribute their assets, it would still be wise for individuals to explore the benefits of wills. In many cases, people may find that estate planning documents have more uses than originally believed. 

Though some people may not have children, they could have other relatives to whom they would like to leave their assets. In some instances, nieces or nephews played a significant role in a non-parent's life, and as a result, those loved ones could become the beneficiaries of certain property. Additionally, other loved ones or friends could also fit into the category of beneficiary. 

Missing out on health care planning could cause financial burdens

Though many Massachusetts residents may utilize Medicare to address medical expenses, they may believe that they can rely on the program for assistance with extended care during their elderly years. In fact, a recent survey indicated a majority of older individuals have this mistaken belief. Unfortunately, without proper health care planning to address long-term care, parties could be left wanting. 

The same survey indicated that two-thirds of citizen who are 40 years old and older have not completed a satisfactory long-term care plan. Additionally, 56 percent of survey participants indicated that Medicare should play a larger role in addressing the costs of long-term care. The report went on to state that most of the Democratic and Republican political parties believe that Medicare should provide more assistance with such care.

Start planning ahead for Medicare

Aging gracefully takes carefully planning a regular investment in your health. Aging gracefully financially requires careful planning and forward-looking financial decisions. With the help of an experienced estate and financial planning lawyer, you can start taking steps now to plan for your upcoming Medicare application. Your attorney can also help you with estate planning, putting together a last will and even appointing a health care proxy who has a limited power of attorney if you become incapacitated for any period of time. All of this can give you peace of mind as you approach retirement.

Long-term health care planning isn't something you should put off until you're retired and already able to qualify for Medicare. You should consider purchasing long-term care insurance before then. You should also take steps to financially plan for when you retire and apply for Medicare. Doing so before you turn 60 is your best option, since it gives you time to avoid any financial issues due to gifts or estate planning. If you don't take time to plan ahead for Medicare before you turn 65 and become eligible, your assets or even your estate could be vulnerable to use for Medicare repayment.

Beneficiaries could affect estate administration in Massachusetts

Because Massachusetts residents undoubtedly want to ensure that their children and other family members are taken care of in the event of their demise, they may want to take the time to consider their options for bequeathing assets. When it comes to estate administration, the details left in a will play a significant role in how assets are distributed, but extenuating circumstances could affect that administration. For instance, if property is left to individuals who are not ready to receive it, outside parties could step in. 

If a parent hopes to leave life insurance polices or the funds in bank accounts to his or her children, it's important to take the children's ages into account. If a considerable amount of money is bequeathed to a child and the parent passes away while that child is still a minor, the child will likely not have the proper means to handle the funds. As a result, the state will likely step in and appoint someone to control the funds for the child.

Wills, healthcare proxies may bolster basic estate plans

When it comes to estate planning basics, many Massachusetts residents may think that having a will can cover their needs. While it is true that wills have a multitude of benefits, there are other planning documents that may also prove just as important. In fact, these documents could come in handy while a person is still alive, and not just after death.

It may prove wise to have power of attorney and healthcare proxy documents as part of any basic estate plan. With a power of attorney, an individual can name an agent to make financial and/or medical decisions in the event that the person becomes incapacitated. A healthcare proxy provides a similar benefit, as the creator of the document can appoint a party to make healthcare decisions.

If used correctly, a revocable trust could help avoid probate

Choosing to utilize planning tools other than wills commonly occur during individuals' estate planning. For many Massachusetts residents, a revocable trust could come in handy if they hope to avoid probate or allow certain assets more protection. However, while this tool can prove beneficial in theory, parties may only be limiting themselves if they do not use their trusts to their full potential.

One way a trust could be misused is if the trustmaker fails to properly fund the trust. In order to carry out this needed action, the individual should re-title assets to the trust. This step passes the ownership of the property from the person to the trust and trustee, who then has control over the assets. In most cases, the trustmaker names him or herself as trustee with successor trustees named to take over after death.

Estate planning can help plan guardianships in Massachusetts

Estate plans have a variety of uses, and many Massachusetts residents may only know the surface benefits of such plans. Though individuals can create wills to distribute property, they can also utilize their plans to address guardianships or conservatorships that may be necessary after their deaths. Addressing the need for such appointments ahead of time could prove crucial to many people.

If a person needs a guardian, he or she requires someone else to make personal health-related decisions. These decisions may relate to treatment of physical ailments or issues regarding mental health. If a parent or other party knows that a child or another loved one may need a guardian later in life, an estate plan can help move the process of guardian appointment along.

What kind of taxes will apply to my father's estate?

If you recently lost a loved one, financial concerns are probably the last thing on your mind. You're going through the grieving process and this takes time. Let's say, for example, your father passed away, and you're his only heir. It will now be up to you to navigate the probate process and other legal concerns.

If your father's estate is worth over $1 million, then it may be subject to being taxed.

Dividing land, other assets in wills can have complications

Having children often results in parents having to find creative ways to ensure that each child receives his or her fair share. These shares could relate to minor things such as treats or toys to more significant property as the kids grow older. Most often, individuals want to leave their children equal portions of their parents' estates in their wills, but that tactic may not always be fair. 

Many Massachusetts residents may own a significant amount of land to leave to their heirs. When addressing such an asset, equal division may not lead to each heir receiving a fair share. In some cases, dividing land evenly is not always easy, and though the land may have a certain value at the time the will was created, real estate changes could result in that value altering later on.