Albanese Law, LLC
call to schedule an appointment or House Call
Local: 617.379.0022
Toll Free: 866.591.4451

Boston Elder Law Blog

Reviewing wills, trusts and other estate planning documents

Many Massachusetts residents already have an estate plan. They might be under the impression that their wills, trusts and other estate planning documents will remain effective over time. However, there are several situations in which those documents will need to be reviewed and possibly be changed or updated.

For single or divorced Massachusetts residents, getting married does not automatically mean that their estate plans will provide for their spouses. A surviving spouse does have certain rights to the decedent's property, but that does not mean that changes are not needed. For example, if one or both parties have children from a prior relationship, documents need to be updated or changed in order to ensure they are still provided for after the marriage.

Estate planning takes care of your family's needs

Most Massachusetts residents are already taking care of their families' day-to-day needs. However, it is equally as important to take care of their needs in the event that you become incapacitated or pass away. Furthermore, if a member of your family is unable to take care of themselves due to an accident or illness, it might fall on you to take care of your loved one. Fortunately, estate planning can help you take care of your family under any of these circumstances.

Massachusetts residents are most familiar with the documents that provide for the distribution of property after death through the use of wills, trusts and other methods of passing on assets through operation of law. For example, retirement accounts and life insurance policies have beneficiary designations indicating who will receive their funds after the owner's death. However, there is much more to estate planning than just providing for family after death.

There is more to estate planning that just wills and trusts

Most Massachusetts residents are not anxious to contemplate their own deaths. It might be just as unnerving to consider the fact that they might not be able to make decisions for themselves at some point due to incapacitation caused by an illness or injury. However, it is just as important to consider what they would like to happen if the eventuality arises. Fortunately, estate planning is more than just wills and trusts, and certain documents can be executed to make one's wishes known and to appoint a trusted individual to take care of financial and health considerations if needed.

Advance directives (often referred to as living wills) allow an individual to outline what life-saving measures the or she does -- or does not -- want when it comes to end-of-life care. This will give family members, doctors and the agent appointed in a health care power of attorney important information regarding the wishes of a loved one if he or she is unable to tell them. Many people execute these directives so that extraordinary measures are not used to prolong their lives if there is no chance of a full recovery and the quality of life will be significantly diminished.

Estate planning for transferring real estate and other assets

Massachusetts residents who own real estate often want to transfer it to their loved ones when they die. Fortunately, there are numerous options for transferring real estate assets in estate planning. The challenge is to find the way that works best for a particular individual's family dynamics and circumstances.

Regardless of how a person decides to transfer real estate, it is still a good idea to have at least a will. This document provides for the distribution of property and can be used to appoint a guardian for any minor children. Without a last will and testament, the intestacy laws of Massachusetts will decide where an individual's property goes, and that may not be how the decedent would have preferred. Transferring real estate by a will takes time, however, since it has to go through the probate process.

Questions people should ask when making out their wills

Taking care of family is a goal of many Massachusetts residents. For many people, this includes wills, trust and other estate planning documents. Before any of these documents can be drafted, however, there are certain questions that will need to be answered.

The first thing to consider is which beneficiary will receive what assets. The simplest way to divide assets would be equally, but that does not always work for every family. In some cases, one beneficiary might need more assistance than another. In other families, an individual might have a favorite relative to whom he or she would prefer to leave everything.

Assisting elderly parents with estate planning

Over the holidays, many Massachusetts families might have had difficult conversations with their elderly parents regarding whether they are prepared for a time when their parents may become incapacitated or pass away. Now that those conversations have occurred, it might be possible to help them find the assistance they will need with estate planning. Depending on the circumstances, the elderly parents might need several different documents in order to protect themselves, their heirs and their estates.

As the age of the population rises, so does the possibility that more people will need some sort of assisted living or nursing home care. The expense involved will require some planning to afford these things when the time comes. Along with the possibility of alternative housing comes the potential of losing the mental capacity to handles one's affairs. Powers of attorney for both health care and finances can help transfer decision-making authority if it becomes necessary.

Wills help Massachusetts residents plan their families' futures

The fact is that few Massachusetts residents are comfortable with contemplating their own death. This causes people to delay executing wills to distribute their property after they pass away. However, wills and other estate planning documents are not only for the peace of mind of the person executing them, they are plans for the future of that person's family.

Not having an estate plan does not mean that a person's property will not get distributed after death. The inestacy laws of the state of Massachusetts are the default way for property to be distributed in the absence of a will. However, the property may not go to the heirs that the individual would have preferred. During life, providing for family members is a primary motivation for many people. An estate plan allows them to continue providing for their family after they pass away.

Failure to consider health care planning could be costly

Many Massachusetts residents contemplate a retirement in which they can travel, indulge a hobby, or enjoy being home and spending time with family. Unfortunately, many fail to consider that a debilitating condition could change those plans forever. Therefore, they also fail to consider long-term health care planning, which could be costly later in life.

Research suggests that approximately one in five people plans for the possibility of long-term care. When this statistic is stacked up against the probability that nearly 70 percent of the aging population, meaning those over the age of 65, will need some sort of long-term care, the problem becomes clear. The average cost of a private room in a nursing home in the United States is around $97,611 per year. Since this is an average, the cost can be significantly higher in some locations.

What happens during the probate process?

Many Massachusetts residents are unaware of what is supposed to happen after the death of a loved one. Whether the decedent has an estate plan does not mean that probate can be automatically avoided. Surviving family members may have heard about the probate process, but do not understand how it works or what it entails.

After a loved one dies, a probate typically needs to be filed in order to administer the decedent's estate. Before even one asset can be distributed to heirs, certain tasks must be performed. One of the primary duties of the executor or administrator of the estate is to address any debts.

Wills are the first step in estate planning regardless of age

If a Massachusetts adult earns money or owns assets, such as a car or house, estate planning is essential. Regardless of whether an individual is married or has children, an estate plan will ensure that any property is distributed in accordance with his or her wishes. Wills are just the first step in the process, no matter what the person's situation.

Arguably, the best time to engage in estate planning is when an individual is young and healthy. A plan can be executed at any point, but the sooner one is done, the better. Having a will is a good first step, but other documents are needed as well.

Our Offices