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Massachusetts estate planning covers more than wills and trusts

When many people in Massachusetts think of estate planning, their thoughts may go to documents such as wills and trusts. However, there is more to estate planning than just what will happen upon a person's death. There are documents that can make caring for a person at the end of life easier.

Documents such as healthcare powers of attorney, living will and a durable power of attorney can provide instructions to loved ones when it comes time. Most people do not go from being independent and able to conduct their own affairs unimpeded to death. As the country's population ages, more and more people are reaching a point where they could lose their ability to live on their own and handle their own affairs without assistance.

A healthcare power of attorney and living will can act hand-in-hand if a person becomes incapacitated. A living will gives a person's preferences if medical personnel certify him or her as being near death. These preferences include withholding certain lifesaving measures under these circumstances. A healthcare power of attorney allows the person appointed to make healthcare decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person. When used together, these documents can help ensure a person's wishes are respected.

A durable power of attorney can be as broad or limited as desired. This document gives someone else the ability to conduct the financial affairs of a person should he or she become unable to do so. This can include things such as paying bills, filing tax returns and even selling assets if needed.

As Massachusetts residents age, it might be a good idea to consider what they would like to happen if they are unable to take care of themselves. Looking beyond wills and trusts when it comes to estate planning can help an individual create a much more comprehensive estate plan that could provide peace of mind. It may not be pleasant to think about losing independence or becoming incapacitated, but there is no harm in being prepared.

Source: batesvilleheraldtribune.com, Documents can make end-of-life care easier, Debbie Blank, Nov. 1, 2013

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