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Boston Elder Law Blog

Trusts may reduce the risk of probate and estate litigation

There are many myths that surround estate planning, especially one of the most valuable tools, which are trusts. Some people believe that trusts are only for those with seven-figure incomes and huge stores of cash assets. In reality, trusts are a useful tool for families with average incomes and homes. A trust can offer a host of potential benefits for creating a workable and flexible estate plan.

In addition to offering decreased tax liabilities, trusts give you much more control over how your assets get handled after your death. There are many kinds of assets, which allow you different kinds of benefits, such as the ability to fund them on your death with the benefits tied to your life insurance policy. Whether you already have an estate plan or you're getting to create your first one, it may be time to consider the value of a trust.

What happens when people die without wills?

Creating an estate plan is something that many people are guilty of putting off. A significant number of these people, including many Massachusetts residents, may believe that they do not need one until they achieve a certain amount of wealth. However, anyone can benefit from creating a will. Family members or other potential beneficiaries of people who die without written wills may find it difficult to receive their rightful inheritance.

Normally, a will would dictate who the beneficiaries are, how assets are to be divided and who is to take over obligations like mortgage payments. For example, when a person dies, his or her will might indicate that his or her home is to be left to a family member to be sold or to live in. If two people jointly own or are joint tenants, then the full ownership of the property will most likely be transferred to the survivor. However, if the property is not jointly owned and the decedent has no will, then the property will be transferred according to state law. 

The ups and downs of a revocable trust for Buzz Aldrin

Elderly people across the country have been involved in legal battles where people, including family members, are attempting, or have attempted, to gain control of their assets. Some Massachusetts residents may find themselves in a similar situation to former astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, who is currently struggling with accusations that he is not mentally competent. Aldrin has a revocable trust in place to help him, but it is that same trust that is adding to his problems. 

Aldrin's family and former manager have allegedly taken advantage of him and have gained control of his assets. He has stated that they have forbidden him from marrying and have been taking funds from his accounts without his consent. However, his family, including his son who has been named as a trustee in Aldrin's revocable trust, claim that the aging astronaut is suffering from dementia.

Including cryptocurrency in wills

Online assets are becoming more common as technology advances.What happens to cryptocurrency, like bitcoin and ethereum, after the account holder dies? In Massachusetts and elsewhere these currencies can be included in wills, but what other steps might be necessary for heirs to redeem them?

Every year billions of dollars in cryptocurrency are lost. It was recently estimated that around 20 percent of bitcoin goes unclaimed after the original owner's death. Providing detailed information about the account can help both the beneficiaries and the executor of the estate locate the assets. This includes providing usernames and passwords to these accounts, and the amount of currency contained in each one. 

Estate planning tips following a divorce

If a couple in Massachusetts files for divorce, they would do well to remember to update their wills or any other estate plans that they may have. Estate planning can take time, and some divorcing couples may be concerned with what may happen if they are incapacitated during the divorce process. Updating these plans as soon as possible can help each individual to maintain control over his or her assets and ensure that he or she has a trusted individual in place to make financial or health care decisions if needed. 

Discovering what can and cannot be changed in an estate plan is, for many, a good place to start. From there, many may choose to update their wills. This might include deciding whether or not to include the ex-spouse as a beneficiary. It might also include amending trusts or other documents.

Theft from incapacitated adults by their caregivers

There are adults across the country who are under the care of another due to a wide variety of health problems or old age. These caregivers are often in charge of helping their wards around their homes as well as helping to pay bills. However, as some Massachusetts residents may know, some of these caregivers take advantage of the incapacitated adults whom they are supposed to help.

One woman was charged with the care of a 91-year-old woman with a dementia-related illness, but instead of caring for her, the woman chose to steal from her employer. During the one month the woman was employed in 2017, the family noticed that several of the elderly woman's belongings began going missing. Sometime during October of that year, another family member called the authorities about the missing items. When the Sheriff's Office checked the caregiver's Facebook page, they saw several pictures of items that the woman intended to sell at an antique mall, which were identical to those that her elderly employer was missing.

5 reasons people do not talk about estate planning

Are you unsure how to talk to your elderly parents about estate planning? Maybe you know they have not done anything, and you worry about them. Maybe you fear that they have made some mistakes. Perhaps you just feel curious because they have not shared any of their plans with you and you want to avoid a difficult situation in the future.

If you do not know how to bring it up these delicate matters, you are not alone. When asked, about 43 percent of parents admit that they have never sat down with their adult children to talk about long-term care planning. Another 34 percent claimed they had never spoken in detail with their kids about retirement and living expenses. The parents in question were all 55 years of age or older.

Estate administration and social media

The internet has become much more than a form of entertainment over the years. In addition to individuals sharing the things that they like and their experiences online, many businesses rely on social media to advertise. Some people, as many Massachusetts residents may already know, even make a living posting on social media through the support of sponsors. More and more people are also paying bills digitally and storing important information online. This may present some problems when it comes to estate administration

It isn't only financial accounts or business related accounts that are important. Personal accounts, like Facebook or e-mail accounts, can also hold very important information. However, it can be very difficult for executors or family members to access this information later. Even with access to the account usernames and passwords, the website's policies may prevent anyone other than the account owner from accessing all of the account information. 

Including pets in wills

The family pet is, for many Massachusetts families, more than just a companion or living possession; these animals are members of the family. However, many owners are unsure of how to ensure that their beloved pets are taken care of after they are gone. Bequeathing money directly to a pet can often be problematic, but there are ways for pet owners to construct their wills in a way that protects and ensures the care of their pets.

Naming a caretaker is one of the steps that owners can take to ensure that their pets are cared for. This, in combination with the creation of a pet trust, can help to provide a proper home and care for many years after the animal's owner passes away. A trust can provide funds for the caretaker to draw from in order to pay for the animal's care. This might include vet care, grooming, food and supplies, daycare, or training expenses when needed. Setting up a trust can also help the owner to dictate how the funds are to be used.

Health care planning and power of attorney

Many Massachusetts residents who are creating an estate plan for the first time may be surprised by the number of steps involved or by the variety of options available to them. Some may believe that they only need to be concerned with creating a will, but health care planning can also be very important. Those who have long-term health concerns may be more likely to set up a health care power of attorney because appointing one of these individuals can help to prevent many problems before they begin.

A health care power of attorney is appointed to help make medical decisions on behalf on someone who is unable to make those decisions because of incapacitation. Unlike an advanced directive or living will, which usually only focuses on end-of-life medical care, a medical power of attorney can be used to make decisions about medical care no matter how old the individual. However, in some states, these documents are considered to be suggestions, and it is up to the appointed power of attorney to determine which treatments to use. 

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