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Estate planning applies to lifetime as well as after-death needs

There are several legal instruments that the Massachusetts estates attorney will consider when evaluating an individual or married couple for planning purposes. These documents go beyond simple wills when one is charting a full estate plan. The fact is that estate planning does not just prepare for what happens after one dies. It also has a lot to do with taking care of the person's needs while still alive.

This can run the gamut from asset protection, retirement planning, powers of attorney and advance directives that may be necessary to respond to the person's lifetime needs. For example, in the health care area, estate planning generally provides a health care directive for the client so that a trusted friend or family member will have legal authority to make health care decisions when necessary. A living will is another kind of health care directive that specifies what kind of treatment and maintenance protocols, if any, that the individual wants to authorize if he/she is close to death. However, living wills are not recognized in Massachusetts, which makes the health care directive all the more important.

The durable power of attorney is extremely helpful if the individual becomes incapacitated and unable to handle his/her own financial affairs. An agent, usually a trusted friend or family member, is authorized to carry on those matters seamlessly if an incapacity arises. Sometimes, a revocable trust will be set up in addition to the durable power of attorney. The two may complement each other, giving authority to one's representative in all potential future scenarios.

It should be noted that generally the maker of the revocable trust appoints himself or herself as trustee, but if an incapacity occurs, a provision is included for a trusted person to step in as alternate trustee to assure that one's financial matters continue to move along as appropriate and necessary. There are numerous regulations and statutes in Massachusetts that specify standards and requirements for the above estate planning tools. The best way to stay accurate and up-to-date is to have an estate planning attorney that one can turn to always for continued guidance.

Source: Forbes, "The Biggest Estate Planning Mistake People Make", Brad Wiewel, Aug. 16, 2017

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