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There is more to estate planning that just wills and trusts

Most Massachusetts residents are not anxious to contemplate their own deaths. It might be just as unnerving to consider the fact that they might not be able to make decisions for themselves at some point due to incapacitation caused by an illness or injury. However, it is just as important to consider what they would like to happen if the eventuality arises. Fortunately, estate planning is more than just wills and trusts, and certain documents can be executed to make one’s wishes known and to appoint a trusted individual to take care of financial and health considerations if needed.

Advance directives (often referred to as living wills) allow an individual to outline what life-saving measures the or she does — or does not — want when it comes to end-of-life care. This will give family members, doctors and the agent appointed in a health care power of attorney important information regarding the wishes of a loved one if he or she is unable to tell them. Many people execute these directives so that extraordinary measures are not used to prolong their lives if there is no chance of a full recovery and the quality of life will be significantly diminished.

A health care power of attorney appoints someone to make medical decisions on a person’s behalf. A financial power of attorney allows the person designated to pay bills, access accounts and make other financial decisions. The powers afforded in this document can be as broad or specific as the individual desires. In both cases, however, it is important that the agent is someone that the person trusts.

Without proper estate planning, family members will not only be left to wonder what a Massachusetts resident’s preferences would have been, but they may also have to go to court in order to obtain permission to make these decisions. This could make an already difficult situation worse. Furthermore, it could cause delays that could even jeopardize the individual’s health and/or finances.

Source:, “A guide to basic estate planning“, Debra A. DeLeers, Jan. 13, 2016


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