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Boston Elder Law Blog

The purpose of advance directives

Many Massachusetts residents over the age of 18 have or will write a last will and testament at some point. However, many might only consider how their finances or belongings will be divided after their passing without considering the possible need for medical care at some point in the future. Advance directives can help to prevent future problems or disagreements later in life when an individual is unable to make medical decisions. 

A small number of states have adopted what is referred to as the Death with Dignity Act, which allows doctors to prescribe medications intended to end a person's life. It is under consideration by the Massachusetts legislature, though it has been considered and rejected on multiple occasions previously. It isn't unusual for people to wait to make decisions regarding their end-of-life medical care. Unfortunately, many people wait too long to make these decisions, and by the time they have decided how they wish their care to be handled they have been deemed unfit to make the decision themselves.

Benefits of a special needs trust

Families with a special needs child are becoming more and more common. Many of these children will receive government benefits when they are older. Some Massachusetts parents may wish to leave a special needs child some kind of inheritance after they pass. However, leaving large amounts of money for these individuals may not be the best course of action. Instead, families may wish to consider setting up a special needs trust.  

If a person who has been diagnosed with special needs is receiving government benefits, they could potentially lose those benefits if they are given an inheritance. This is because these benefits are often need-based, and there is a limit to how much money they can have access to while receiving aid. Once these benefits are lost, it can be very difficult to regain them. 

Estate planning in the new year

The holidays are over, and people in Massachusetts are looking forward to a new year. At the beginning of the year, many people find themselves planning for the future, and for some, that includes an estate plan or will. Some of these individuals may be considering estate planning for the first time, and there are others who wish to edit an existing estate plan.

There are a number of things that a person can do to make his or her estate plan easy for family members to understand. Consolidating accounts can help family members to more easily sort or monitor a relative's finances. Limiting the number of credit cards can help to prevent an individual from accruing too much debt. However, closing too many accounts too soon can hurt a person's credit score. It can also help to automate payments when possible so that memory loss or a busy schedule does not cause payments to fall behind.

Leaving instructions in wills for beneficiaries

By now, most people across the country, including Massachusetts, have heard about the passing of the famous playboy Hugh Hefner. While many may not have agreed with his lavish and somewhat scandalous lifestyle, some individuals may be surprised to find themselves agreeing with the stipulations left in his will. Many people may be unaware of what stipulations or instructions can be included in their wills.

Hefner's will requires that his beneficiaries abstain from drugs and alcohol. It states that his beneficiaries, including his children and third wife, may not frequently use any illegal substance or be considered to be dependant on alcohol. In order to enforce this, the will also gives trustees the power to request a drug test from the beneficiaries when they feel that it is necessary. 

How getting remarried affects your estate plan

You're older, and you know that getting remarried wasn't always in your plan. Despite that, you've found a partner you can't live without, and you'd like to make it official.

One thing you should think about before tying the knot is your estate plan. When you get remarried, your estate plan will need to change in most cases. You may need to add your new spouse and change your beneficiaries. You might have to adjust the terms in your legal documents to include people who would be overlooked as beneficiaries due to your remarriage, too. Here are a few things to consider.

Taking advantage of the new year to do some estate planning

Another year has come and gone. As one year ends and another begins, many Massachusetts residents may think about what they want to accomplish in the new year. Some may want to lose weight, some may want to quit smoking, while others are determined to finally take that road trip they've been planning to go on for years. What about estate planning? Creating an estate plan could be a productive way to start the year. 

Trying to determine a loved one's wishes without the help of a last will and testament and a living will can be difficult. Some family members might argue about what should be done concerning their loved one's health care or what should be done with their assets after death. Other family members may pay unnecessary legal fees in an attempt to sort out a relatives affairs. There are still more who will not have any choice at all because the state will step in if there is no will and testament available. 

Understand revocable trusts and what they can do for you

Trusts are an important tool for estate planning. Understanding how to use these trusts is important because any mistake that is made with a trust could be a very costly error. It is imperative that you think carefully about the type of trust that you are setting up. This includes thinking about the purpose of the trust and your goals.

One type of trust that you might use is a revocable trust. This type of trust can change if necessary. Some people find this aspect very important, but there are some points that you should know before you get the trust created.

Your parent's powers of attorney

It isn't unusual for adult children to become confused or overwhelmed when they are faced with the possibility of taking over one or both parent's finances. Some Massachusetts residents may not be prepared for this possibility. Assigning a trusted individual with powers of attorney can help to solve many problems before they start.

People can give their power of attorney agents several specific powers or they can give them more general guidelines. Some are responsible for paying bills, selling assets, or managing online accounts. Even if a trust has been set up, a trustee will still need a power of attorney to help manage assets that fall outside the trust. Individuals who do not have a designated power of attorney may have one appointed by the court if it is determined that they need one.

Health care planning can help to avoid a financial disaster

Although people throughout the country and in Massachusetts view Medicare as a trusted program, it does not pay for all medical expenses that one may encounter after age 65. Services that were covered under employer-sponsored plans, such as vision, hearing and dental care are not covered. Long-term care coverage is also not covered, and Medicare has substantial deductibles and co-pays. That is why health care planning for one's retirement years is vital.

There is a maze of rules, regulations and options relevant to setting up such a plan for health care needs. Thus, it is always best to encounter such complex issues under the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney. The long-term care planning is especially critical because the cost of staying in a nursing home is exorbitant and can easily wipe out the nest egg of an elderly couple when they least expect it.

A revocable trust cannot serve its purpose until it is funded

Whether in Massachusetts or elsewhere, a basic fact to remember is that trusts must be funded before they can do anything. However, an unfunded trust is not void. For example, a revocable trust that is unfunded will remain valid but inoperative until it is funded. This sometimes does not happen until the settlor dies and his/her pour over provision in the will kicks in and sends specified assets to the trust. That is an ironic result because one of the purposes of creating the revocable trust is to avoid probate.

The point is that people forget or neglect to fund their trust after it is established. Without funding, it will not do what was intended. It is true, however, that some trusts must wait for certain events prior to being funded. An irrevocable life insurance trust will not be funded until the insured's death.