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Boston Elder Law Blog

How can one appoint a guardian for his or her minor children?

For young parents in Massachusetts and elsewhere who are going through the estate planning process, trying to decide who will care for young children in the event of their deaths or incapacitation can be challenging. As difficult as it may be, appointing a guardian for minor children really is a must. This column will address how this can be done and what should be considered before making the ultimate decision.

No one wants to think about not being around to or capable of caring for his or her children. Unfortunately, no one can predict the future. Having a plan in place can help avoid problems later.

Is the probate process always necessary?

When it comes to estate administration, the word probate makes a lot of people cringe. The idea can be scary and confusing, especially to those who may not understand how it works. Thankfully, not every estate is subject to the probate process. This column will go over why probate may be necessary for estates administered in Massachusetts.

First off, there are certain legal steps that one can take when going through the estate planning process to help loved ones avoid probate down the line. Making sure real estate and personal property titles are correct, ensuring beneficiaries are assigned and creating a will and/or trust are all good places to start. However, there are some things that may be in an estate that will make avoiding probate impossible.

Why asset protection matters for entrepreneurs

When going through the estate planning process, one tends to focus purely on protecting personal assets and loved ones. However, for entrepreneurs in Massachusetts and elsewhere, asset protection for one's business is equally important. After all, how business affairs are handled in the event of one's incapacitation or death will affect one's personal or family situation as well.

Failing to have an estate plan that includes protections for one's business will affect a lot of people and undermines the hard work taken to build the company. There are several different legal documents, beyond wills, that can be included in an estate plan in order to ensure this does not happen. These might include a buy/sell agreement and a succession plan -- among others.

Revocable or irrevocable trust -- which is right for me?

When planning one's estate, there are numerous things to consider -- such as how assets and beneficiaries would best be protected, for instance. Unfortunately, many Massachusetts residents may not know all of the available options open to them that will allow them to achieve such goals. Honestly, for some, creating trusts may prove to be in their best interests -- but what kind? Should revocable trust or an irrevocable trust be chosen?

While there are various trust types, the two most commonly used by Massachusetts residents are revocable and irrevocable trusts. A revocable trust is a legal document that is valid during one's lifetime. This type of trust can be modified or revoked if necessary. Any assets that are included in a revocable trust may still be subject to probate; however, creditors may find it more difficult to access these assets.

Why consider advance directives?

When it comes to estate planning, failing to create a plan for all conceivable situations can result in a lot of problems. For instance, in the event of one's incapacitation, who is going to make all of the important medical decisions? Having clear instructions and an assigned representative matters. For this reason, Massachusetts residents may want to consider having advance directives.

So, what exactly is an advance directive? This is a legal document in which one expresses his or her wishes regarding medical treatments should something happen making it impossible for him or her to communicate those wishes in person. These are useful to have in emergency situations or near the end of one's life.

Dealing with a loved one's debts during the probate process

In life, it is not uncommon to borrow money in order to attain certain assets or to go into debt to pay for unexpected expenses. What happens, though, when someone dies before he or she is able to pay back what was borrowed? In Massachusetts and elsewhere, any unpaid debts are dealt with during the probate process.

While not every estate has to go through probate, a good majority of them do. During probate, creditors are given a certain amount of time to file claims against an estate. Those claims that are found to be valid will then be ordered to be paid from the estate before any assets can be distributed to beneficiaries.

Incapacitated adults rely on guardians for a number of things

Those individuals in Massachusetts and elsewhere who are appointed as guardians of adults have a number of responsibilities. After all, incapacitated adults depend on these individuals to make many important medical and personal decisions for them -- among other things, -- which is no small feat. What are some of the duties and responsibilities assigned to guardians, and are there any limits to their decision making powers?

The list of a guardians duties and responsibilities is fairly extensive. What is on this list may vary depending on the limitations of the individual placed in a guardian's care. However, common responsibilities include:

  • Providing for everyday needs
  • Advocating for legal rights
  • Making decisions about medical care and treatment
  • Ensuring living environment is safe and appropriate

Medicaid look back: 3 FAQs

Medicaid is a federal program designed to cover the costs of medical care once a qualifying individual's funds are depleted. Steps can be taken to proactively plan to qualify for these benefits.

Qualifying for Medicaid can be beneficial in a number of situations, including for married couples. It can allow for one spouse to qualify for Medicaid benefits without depleting all of the couple's assets.

There is more to estate planning than just a will

Some Massachusetts residents are under the impression that if they have a will, they have done what they can to protect themselves and their families. However, there is more to estate planning than just wills. Other documents are needed to protect people in the event that they become incapacitated.

If an individual becomes unable to make decisions for him or herself due to an illness or injury, someone will need to step in and handle health and financial matters during that time. Without powers of attorney for health care and finances, family members will often need to go to court in order to obtain the right to act on behalf of an incapacitated loved one. Having to do so could cause significant delays that could ultimately cause harm to the individual.