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Boston Elder Law Blog

Retirement planning should not neglect the probate process

Many Massachusetts residents look forward to retirement and make sure that they plan for it. However, they fail to plan for what comes after retirement -- the probate process. Moreover, retirement plans could be interrupted by an illness or accident. Failing to plan for either of these possibilities could lead to other problems in the future.

Without an estate plan that includes at least the basic documents -- a will, powers of attorney for health care and finances, and advanced directives -- family members will have to spend time and money obtaining the right to act on behalf of a deceased relative. Further, an individual who is incapacitated will relinquish the right to maintain control over his or her estate and health care decisions. These documents allow an individual to decide in advance who will handle money and medical decisions in the event of incapacitation and who will receive what assets upon his or her death.

Careful financial inventory can help with estate administration

Careful planning when one is of sound mind and body can help to ensure that one's desires and intentions are properly carried out upon one's death. Organization of one's finances and assets ahead of time also benefits a person who becomes mentally or physically incapacitated and no longer able to govern his or her own estate. A professor of finance from a university outside of Massachusetts published a recent article about the benefits of taking a financial inventory for the purpose of future estate administration.

Creating a list of one's financial accounts and contact information for important people can ease the administration of one's estate when the time comes. The recent article stated that a financial inventory helps to place all of one's assets, insurance policies and other pertinent information in one location. This, in turn, simplifies the process for those who will need the information in the event of an estate owner's death or incapacitated state.

Estate administration may be too much for some family members

An estate plan is designed to take care of the family members left behind after a Massachusetts resident passes away. Ordinarily, the documents are set up to make estate administration easier and less time-consuming for his or her loved ones. However, dealing with the particulars of how everything will happen is too much for some loved ones. In that case, it will not matter how well an estate plan is crafted.

Some Massachusetts residents just are not adept at dealing with financial and/or business matters -- it simply is not their strength. For example, in most marriages, either the husband or the wife shoulders the majority of the responsibility for the family's financial affairs. Often, the other spouse is kept up-to-date but has no interest in being a part of the process.

Long-term health care planning options for Massachusetts elders

Medical advancements are allowing people to live longer. This means that as many as 70 percent of people over the age of 65 will need medical care for a longer period of time than in the past. Long-term health care planning could help pay for that care. Whether a Massachusetts resident is looking to save for themselves, a spouse or elderly parents, he or she has several options from which to choose.

Many people opt to purchase long-term care insurance or other insurance products that provide for in-home care, assisted living or a nursing home. Other people rely on government assistance programs such as Medicaid. However, with the increasing amount of people making use of these products and benefits, they could become cost-prohibitive at some point.

Dividing assets among children can be problematic

Most Massachusetts parents want to ensure that their children are cared for after they are gone. The question is how to divide their assets among the children in a way that will give each of them the most benefit. Every child is different, and simply dividing the assets up equally may not be the best solution.

One of the joys of being a parent is that no two children are alike. They each have their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses. In adulthood, this often means that one child is doing better financially than another. Each child has his or her own needs and resources when it comes to finances.

A special needs trust could be crucial for Massachusetts parents

Massachusetts parents who have a child with special needs often dedicate their lives to providing the best care possible to him or her. Some of these parents may also be preoccupied with ensuring that their child will continue to receive the same level of care if and when they are not around to do it themselves. This is where a special needs trust can be crucial.

Medical expenses, special equipment and other items required for the care of a child can be expensive. Government benefits are helpful, but limited. Supplementing those benefits is nearly always needed, but if your child has too many assets, he or she may no longer qualify for benefits.

Young adults in Massachusetts need wills, too

Most young adults in Massachusetts believe they have their whole lives ahead of them and have plenty of time to take care of estate planning at some point in the future. Moreover, they may not believe that they have anything of value. However, if they have personal belongings, a car and maybe a checking account, they have assets. Wills keep family members from having to obtain court permission to distribute those assets.

As a person goes about his or her life, he or she may not think there is enough time to create an estate plan. It could be a task that is on his or her to-do list, but it keeps getting pushed to the bottom as other things take priority. After all, no one wants to spend time thinking about his or her demise. 

Family contests the costs of estate administration

In 2007, a man and his wife died when their private plane went down near the runway at a Massachusetts airport. Since that time, the administration of their estates has been fraught with controversy, including a claim that their wills were forgeries. Now, the couple's heirs are contesting the costs of estate administration, which reach into the millions of dollars.

Reports indicate that, over the years, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.3 million in various payments and fees have been taken from the estates. Moreover, records of real estate transactions indicate losses of around $1.9 million. The niece and four nephews who will inherit the remainder of the estates would like the court to order the administrators of the estates to produce documentation regarding all of the money that has gone out of the estates. 

Older family members may need help with asset protection

Growing older is not always easy. Aside from the physical aches and pains many older Massachusetts residents feel, their memories and mental acuity may also suffer due to the aging process. Before their conditions worsen, they may need help with asset protection, along with other estate planning issues.

Before anything else can be done, it is necessary to determine the current state of an elderly family member's finances. All of his or her assets need to be identified and located. Information regarding each asset should be catalogued, including account numbers, names and addresses of financial institutions and any contact person. Do not forget to gather information regarding online assets such as usernames and passwords. The same process should be accomplished with the individual's debts.

Probate process not going smoothly for Robin Williams' heirs

It might be difficult for Massachusetts fans of Robin Williams to believe that it has been nearly six months since he passed away. He attempted to set up a conflict free estate plan that provided for the people he loved, but that has not stopped his heirs from finding their way into court. The contentious probate process is not over the big assets that he owned -- instead, it is about his personal items.

Prior to his death, Williams created trusts for his children and updated his will. He and his third wife signed a prenuptial agreement prior to their marriage. At that time, Williams had no reason to believe that a legal dispute would arise among his heirs.

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