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Boston Elder Law Blog

Setting up a living revocable or irrevocable trust

Massachusetts residents set up living trusts -- which is a trust created during the life of its creator -- for a variety of reasons. For instance, a revocable trust (changeable) or irrevocable trust (unchangeable) can be created to provide for loved ones who are too young or otherwise incapable of dealing with financial affairs on their own. Other people may set up a trust in order to protect their assets if they become incapacitated. Some trusts are created to avoid probate, stave off creditors and avoid hefty estate taxes.

Regardless of the reason, most living trusts are created in the same manner. They can be tailored for your purposes, so long as they are not contrary to public policy or illegal. This means that it is possible to control how and when distributions are made to a beneficiary -- who is the person receiving the assets of the trust -- by the trustee, the trust's administrator. During the life of the trust's creator, or grantor, he or she can serve as the grantor, trustee and beneficiary of the trust.

Wills are just the beginning of stress relief for the future

Retirement may seem years or even decades away for some Massachusetts residents. However, that may not stop concerns about the future over what would happen to an individual and his or her family if one was no longer able to care for him- or herself or family. Fortunately, estate plans with wills at their core can help eliminate the stress of an unplanned future.

However, death is not the only event that needs planning. An illness or accident could render an adult individual unable to conduct his or her affairs at any age. Choosing one or more trusted persons to take care of the financial and health care decisions ahead of time can provide a sense of relief for both the individual and family members. Moreover, a plan needs to be in place to make adjustments to one's estate if long-term care is needed.

Blended families up the stakes in asset protection

A large number of families in Massachusetts are comprised of children from a previous marriage and couples who are getting married for the first or second time later in life. This often means that both parties are coming into the marriage with their own wealth and assets. Asset protection takes on a new meaning for these families when it comes to estate planning.

A surviving spouse is entitled to at least a portion of his or her deceased spouse's estate by law despite what a will may say. Therefore, in order to ensure that children from a prior relationship receive certain assets of the estate, creating or updating each party's estate plan is a necessity. In most instances, any property that an individual wishes to leave to his or her children needs to be spelled out in a will. Some individuals choose to put their assets into trust for loved ones, which is also considered a viable way to protect their inheritances.

Adult children need to discuss estate planning with parents

Massachusetts residents are living longer now than ever before. This could mean that the possibility of some older people becoming incapacitated is a real concern. Adult children may want to discuss estate planning with their parents in order to ensure that a plan is in place just in case.

Once an elderly parent's health is on the decline, it might be too late to prepare for an easy transition for an adult child to take over making financial and healthcare decisions on behalf of his or her parent or parents. It may be difficult to bring up money and the possibility of incapacitation with a parent. However, it is the first step toward ensuring that a parent is taken care of as he or she ages.

Powers of attorney essential in long term care planning

There are two components of estate planning -- documents that cover what will happen after death, and those that cover incapacitation. Massachusetts residents who are conducting long term care planning also benefit from including health care powers of attorney, advanced directives and durable powers of attorney. As the name implies, a health care power of attorney allows an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf under certain conditions. An advance directive lets you make choices regarding end-of-life treatment. A durable power of attorney, on the other hand, allows the agent to make financial decisions for you.

If you become incapacitated, several things will occur. First, someone will need to arrange for your care, which includes making medical decisions and arranging payment of your bills -- including medical bills -- to be paid, among other things. An advance directive is a starting point for your health care proxy. Without this document, your loved ones may not know what life saving and/or extending measures you do or do not want.

How important are wills for Massachusetts single parents?

Undoubtedly, being a single parent is a challenge. Most Massachusetts residents dedicate their lives to raising their children the best they can. However, some may neglect to do even the most basic estate planning. Without wills, single parents may be leaving the fate of their children in the hands of the courts.

It does not matter how much money a person has when it comes to estate planning. It is about ensuring that the person or persons chosen by him or her inherit an individual's assets -- whatever they may be. More importantly for a single parent, however, could be the appointment of a guardian -- a trusted individual who will take care of his or her children if the worst happens and he or she passes away.

The role of estate administration in a wrongful death claim

By now, most Massachusetts residents are aware that the circumstances surrounding Joan Rivers' death may be suspect. For this reason, Rivers' daughter, Melissa Rivers, has retained counsel to file a medical malpractice claim against the party or parties believed responsible for her mother's death. The way that Joan Rivers structured her estate plan, estate administration should not have been necessary. However, now that a lawsuit regarding her death is being initiated, it is required.

Of course, the most important evidence in any medical malpractice case may be the medical records. Many people may not realize that the executor of the decedent's estate is the only one who can obtain those records. This means that even if it was not previously necessary to go through the probate process, applicable federal and state laws concerning the confidentiality of medical records require an executor to be appointed to represent the estate.

Long-term health care planning can give peace of mind

Partly through the miracle of modern medicine, people are living longer. This means that long-term health care planning becomes an important focus for Massachusetts residents as they age. Many older people spend their last years in nursing homes, their own homes or long-term care facilities.

These facilities provide the medical monitoring and assistance that family members may not be able to provide. Even staying at home could require the assistance of a medical professional who comes into the home. Sometimes, family members can provide the funds needed to provide the best care possible for a loved one, but they may not be able to do so for as long as may be needed. How an individual spends his or her last days can largely depend on the funds he or she has available.

Massachusetts 30-somethings need wills and related documents

By the time an individual reaches his or her 30s, he or she may be contemplating settling down or may have already done so. He or she may be comfortable at work, buying a home and getting married and having children. What many Massachusetts 30-somethings do not have, however, are wills and other estate planning documents.

A perception still exists that only older people who are nearing or in retirement need to worry about planning for their deaths. The opposite may actually be more accurate since someone in his or her 30s is more likely to have minor children to take care of than someone closer to retirement age. Without an estate plan, the fate of any minor children could be left to the state of Massachusetts along with the disposition of assets.

What is an executor's role in estate administration?

When Massachusetts residents are creating their estate plans, one of the most important decisions they have to make is who to appoint as the executor of their estate.  In making this crucial choice, it may be helpful to understand the role that an executor plays in estate administration.  Here is an overview of an executor's responsibilities.

The first thing an executor will need to do is locate the decedent's will and file a petition with the court to begin the probate.  Once the will is admitted to probate and the executor is formally appointed by the court, he or she will need to locate all of the assets owned by the decedent at the time of death.  Once located, he or she must keep them safe and manage them until they are distributed in accordance with the will. 

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