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Estate and health care planning for aging Massachusetts residents

Many Massachusetts readers are already aware that the average age of the country's population is rising. People are living longer, which increases the odds that they will need some level of assistance toward the end of their lives. Accordingly, estate and health care planning take on more significance.

Many elderly people here in Massachusetts have already made estate plans that direct the distribution of their assets upon death and also provide for their care when they can no longer care for themselves. Many have executed powers of attorney for financial concerns and for health care. A lot of the plans have been structured to allow for Medicaid and/or veteran's benefits to help pay for their care.

If you do not have an estate plan, your family members may need to go to court in order to obtain the authority to care for you if you are no longer able. Someone will need to be appointed as your guardian to make financial and health care decisions on your behalf. The court may also appoint a conservator to protect your estate. The process can be time consuming and expensive. In addition, the individual or individuals appointed by the court may not be whom you would have chosen if you had the chance.

It may be uncomfortable for you to contemplate a time when you are unable to care for yourself, but it is a reality that many of the country's aging population will face at some point. You can maintain some control over what will happen to you and your assets by engaging in estate and health care planning ahead of time. There are numerous issues to consider, and the help of an attorney can be invaluable to ensure that the arrangements you have made can be easily implemented if and when needed.

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