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Boston Elder Law Blog

Setting up a special needs trust

Caring for a special needs child can often be more complicated than many Massachusetts parents expect it to be. Many parents of special needs children have come to realize that their children may not be able to live independently, and they are constantly wondering how their children will be cared for after they pass away. Setting up a special needs trust may help to lessen many parent's worries. 

This trust can help to provide financially for the special needs individual. It can help to supplement the person's income and ensure that everyday expenses are taken care of. One of the most important things about this trust is that it is able to supplement an individual's income without preventing him or her from benefiting from other government programs like Social Security or Medicaid. 

Including pets in wills

Pets are valued members of many families across the country. In fact, there are many people living in Massachusetts, as well as many other states, who are including their pets in their wills. There are cases where owners have left thousands or even millions of dollars to their pets specifically for their care. This money is often used to pay for food, grooming and veterinary care. 

Some of the first steps that many pet owners take are to name a caretaker for the animal and to set up a trust for the caretaker to draw funds from while he or she is caring for the pet. However, owners may be concerned that the funds will not be used to care for the animal as intended. Others fear that the pet will simply be replaced with a similar looking pet after the original has died as a way to retain access to the money.

Easing family stress during the probate process

Massachusetts residents who bite the bullet and create an estate plan take an important step to protect and provide for their loved ones after they pass away. However, it takes more than just executing a will to ease the stress family members face when wrapping up a deceased love one's estate. Making the probate process less complex, and possibly contentious, for surviving family members may help.

Many people remember to divide up monetary accounts and large assets, but it is the personal property that often presents a challenge. Family members could end up arguing about who gets a piece of jewelry or the good china while not being bothered by decisions made about the "bigger" assets. Numerous methods can be employed to divide up these and other personal items in order to avoid these types of conflicts.

Estate planning mistakes to avoid as you age

You'll have a lot on your mind as you age. Although you may have created an estate plan many years ago, it doesn't necessarily mean it can remain the same into the future.

As you get older you should get into the habit of reviewing your estate plan at least once a year. With this strategy you never have to worry about making a mistake that could cost your family time or money down the road.

What is needed for durable powers of attorney

Planning for the future is, for many, an important part of their adult life. Many Massachusetts residents may have a one-, five- or even ten-year plan that they used as a reference when making important decisions. However, some of these individuals may not have taken into account what will happen if they are incapacitated. Some might have already set up powers of attorney to step in if they should pass away unexpectedly, but it is possible that the person who has been given these responsibilities will be unable to step in unless the benefactor dies. 

In some states, if a person is determined to be incapacitated, then his or her power of attorney may not be able to make the decisions that he or she was entrusted to make under a standard agreement. Normally, the person who was assigned power of attorney may only be allowed to make financial decisions under specific circumstances. However, a durable power of attorney will allow this individual to act when the person who appointed him or her is incapacitated. 

Health care planning for after retirement

Retirement for many Massachusetts residents is the ultimate goal, a kind of reward for years of hard work. However, planning for retirement can be difficult and hampered by numerous concerns. Health care planning is often one of those concerns. 

Some individuals might be concerned with the possibility of cognitive decline. Appointing a power of attorney can help to solve many problems before they start. A single person may be appointed to make health care and financial decisions on behalf of another individual, or the power can be divided between two people. If an attorney is contacted early enough, then it is possible for the client to leave detailed instructions or a list of suggestions for the appointed power of attorney or attorneys to reference when making health care or financial decisions. 

Estate administration difficulties for Prince's heirs

In recent years a number of celebrity artists passed away. Unfortunately, the families of some of these pop culture icons are unable to fully move on and find closure. Some of them, like Prince's for example, are stuck in long and incredibly expensive legal proceedings because no will has been found, or one was never written in the first place. As some Massachusetts residents may be aware, in the absence of a will, the task of estate administration is handled by the state's laws of intestacy. 

Prince's family has become increasingly concerned with the amount of money that is being drained from the estate by the law firm tasked with administering the musician's estate.  The estate was, at one point, estimated to be worth between $100 and $300 million before taxes. Since being put in charge of the estate, the firm has received nearly $6 million in legal fees as well as $125,000 in monthly compensation. 

Wills and naming beneficiaries

There are many people who have difficulties creating an estate plan. Some are unsure of what they wish to include in their wills, and others know what they wish to include but are unsure of how to do so. Naming beneficiaries can be especially confusing for some. However, there are some tips that Massachusetts residents may find helpful when naming or changing beneficiaries. 

First, a benefactor may find it helpful to go over his or her will after major life events such as a divorce, birth of a child or death of a family member. Even if no major life events have occurred, it could still be beneficial to review a will every few years. If beneficiaries are not kept up to date, then benefactors risk having their assets given to the wrong individual. This also means that the intended beneficiary may not receive anything. For example, an ex-spouse may receive the assets intended for the children from a later marriage. 

How often should I review my estate plan?

Creating an estate plan is only the beginning of establishing protections for your property and your loved ones. Over time, changes in your circumstances, e.g., the addition or loss of family members and other beneficiaries, along with any changes in tax laws may affect the provisions of your estate plan. To make sure that your beneficiaries receive your estate precisely as you intend, it is essential to review your estate plan regularly to account for these changes.

If you have an estate plan that you created years ago, in most cases, it is still better than no estate plan at all. However, the longer that your estate takes to resolve, the more considerable drain it places on the estate itself. If an estate hangs in this limbo for too long, the strain this puts on the assets of the estate may diminish it enough to seriously compromise how the eventual dispersal plays out.

Lack of conservatorships can lead to legal fees

There are a large number of married couples in Massachusetts who assume that their spouse will be asked, by default, to make medical and financial decisions for the other. Unfortunately, many of these couples discover that this is not the case. Sometimes, a power of attorney isn't enough. Obtaining conservatorships can be time-consuming and expensive for those who aren't expecting to need it. 

A man seeking to cash out his wife's retirement fund in order to help with medical costs has, instead, been accumulating legal fees in an attempt to gain conservatorship of his wife. He has been contesting legal fees charged by the court-appointed attorney, but each time he contests a fee, a hearing must be held. By the time everything is settled and the conservatorship has been decided, up to a quarter of the wife's IRA could be lost to legal fees and other bills.