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Boston Elder Law Blog

Build backup plans into your power of attorney

Your estate plan will designate a person (an "agent") who will exercise power of attorney when you can't manage your own affairs. Their job will be to handle your finances and make other important decisions on your behalf.

From celebrity news or even unfortunate situations among your own family or friends, you're probably aware that agents are sometimes challenged by relatives, and often for good reason.

What is a Rogers Guardianship for extraordinary treatment?

Most guardianship hearings focus on whether to allow a guardian to make ordinary personal and medical decisions. How does the court make guardianship decisions if the adult needs someone to make extraordinary medical decisions?

In Massachusetts, those hearings are called Rogers Guardianship hearings, named after the 1983 decision Rogers v. Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health.

How are a health care proxy and a living will different?

Estate planning documents guide not only what happens after you pass on, but also direct what occurs if you become incapacitated. Though it is unpleasant to imagine such scenarios, it is far worse to wind up in such a situation with no plans made to handle it.

You probably have heard of a health care proxy and a living will, but you may not know the difference. Here is what you need to know about these two important documents.

How to include an art collection in an estate plan

Many adults visit art museums around the world and appreciate the beauty that artists offer through their work. However, very few people see the real value art can provide to society - and possibly your bank account.

Art collectors often study and closely follow artists to determine which pieces to purchase and how their acquisitions will appreciate over time. But some collectors overlook these high-value investments when establishing an estate.

Asset protection is a common and viable estate planning goal

It is common for Massachusetts residents and those elsewhere to form attachments to their property. They may want to keep certain assets for sentimental reasons or because they are valuable. In some cases, individuals want to protect their assets for future generations. When it comes to asset protection, having an estate plan is vital.

Individuals in this situation have already taken one of the first steps of estate planning, which involves identifying a goal. Asset protection is a common goal with which planning ahead can help. Of course, another important step is to identify assets and what needs protecting. This step may include reviewing property that is owned independently and jointly. It is also important not to forget monetary accounts or assets like life insurance policies.

Early distribution a mistake during estate administration

Being the executor of a Massachusetts estate is a major responsibility. This person will need to proficiently settle the estate's final affairs while also trying to mitigate the potential conflicts that could arise with surviving family members. Often, it is the assets that cause the most contention during estate administration.

It is not unusual for beneficiaries and other individuals to ask executors for pieces of property almost immediately after the person's death. However, distributing assets is not the first step that an executor needs to take. In fact, if an executor begins making distributions early, it is possible that serious consequences could result that could lead to personal and legal liability for the executor. Additionally, the court typically does not approve property distributions until the probate process is finished.

Massachusetts estate taxes: Frequently asked questions

One of your main goals when planning out your estate is to ensure that as much of the estate goes to your heirs as possible. You saved that money for them. You accumulated those assets to make their lives better. You do not want to make a critical mistake near the end of your life that means they don't get it or that they don't see the full value of all of the work you put in over the years.

To help you, here are a few common questions about estate taxes:

Wills, trusts and other documents important for estate plans

Planning for the settling of one's final affairs takes a considerable amount of effort. Massachusetts residents will need to go over several documents, such as wills and trusts, that they may want to use in their estate plans. They will also need to consider including other information in their plans that could make their wishes for various aspects known.

The bread and butter of most estate plans are wills and trusts. The will serves multiple purposes, such as specifying who is to receive certain assets and naming guardians for children who are not yet adults. Trusts can offer many benefits for asset protection and reducing estate taxes by removing property from the estate itself and into the trusts. Individuals can also put specific instructions on how assets in trusts should be used. Of course, both of these documents need to be properly created, with any trusts properly funded.

Loved ones may play a role in health care planning

When asked to take on an important role, many Massachusetts residents feel honored. This feeling of honor may especially be present if a loved one asks an individual to play a vital part in making important decisions on his or her behalf. Often, people will appoint family members to make such choices as part of their health care planning.

Typically, individuals use power of attorney documents to give loved ones the authority to act in the event of incapacitation. In particular, parties may choose someone to make medical-related decisions for them. Being a health care power of attorney agent is an important position, and agents need to feel ready to make critical decisions if the time comes. Preparing ahead of time is often helpful.