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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

Why you need to start the estate planning process today

Life is full of surprises and unexpected changes—some good and some more unfortunate. While it's not always possible to anticipate or plan for certain events, in many cases, having a comprehensive estate plan can provide for one’s own benefit as well as that of loved ones.

Think about it, what would happen if you were seriously injured in a car accident tomorrow and not able to communicate your wishes or directions? In this scenario, having a living will and health care proxy can aid doctors in providing one with the type and level of appropriate care. Additionally, these legal directives can remove the burden from family members of having to make major healthcare decisions on your behalf and provide them with peace of mind in knowing that they are following your wishes. Also, having a designated power of attorney means that your mortgage and bills will continue to be paid even while you are incapacitated.

Holidays provide opportune time to discuss estate planning matters

In just a couple of short weeks, the Thanksgiving holiday will be upon us. As families throughout the Boston area gather to give thanks and spend quality time with one another, it may also be a good time to discuss some weightier topics including aging parents’ plans with regard to estate planning matters.

Adult children often have many questions and concerns about a parent's long-term care needs, who will retain certain sentimental belongings and whether a will or trust has been establish and, if so, what that means for them and their own families. Despite the fact that these and many other related questions are on the minds of adult children who return home for the holidays, many are too uncomfortable to inquire or start conversations about estate planning.

Divorce triggers important estate plan updates

As readers of this blog have likely come to realize, estate planning is about much more than drafting a will. While ensuring that assets and personal belonging are distributed according to one's wishes upon death is certainly a significant part of estate planning, there are also many important factors that a comprehensive estate plan can help an individual account and plan for during their lifetime.

From major decisions about healthcare issues in the event an individual is incapacitated to who will attend to one's finances if the aforementioned occurs, the estate planning process can account for many of the knowns and unknowns in life. However, there are times when an individual must take steps to amend his or her estate plan. One such major life event that triggers important estate planning changes is divorce.

New smartphone app lets user plan their own funeral

It seems like everything else can be done on a smartphone app these days. Why not estate planning?

No, you cannot draft a valid will or trust on your phone. At least, not yet. But a new app developed in Boston may help you achieve peace of mind about death, while also giving loved ones a convenient way to learn about some of your end-of-life preferences.

What giving someone power of attorney really means

While most people regard the purpose of an estate plan as providing clear directives for how assets and possessions should be handled after one's death, a comprehensive plan must also account for the unknowns and unexpected events that may arise during one's lifetime. For example, it's important to consider who would take care of one's financial obligations in the event that he or she was involved in a serious accident and became incapacitated or disabled.

To help prepare for the unexpected, an individual would be wise to provide one or more individuals with power of attorney. In the event an individual becomes incapacitated, due to impairments that occur from an injury or as part of the aging process, the individual who has been given power of attorney can make important decisions on one's behalf.

What is an incentive trust?

All parents worry about their children and ultimately want a son or daughter to succeed. When possible, most parents also want to be able to pass on wealth to a child via an estate plan. In cases where a parent has concerns about a child's career or life choices and/or wants to encourage a child to make certain choices, it makes sense to explore establishing an incentive trust.

Like any trust, the creator of an incentive trust funds the trust and names a beneficiary along with a trustee to manage and distribute the trust's assets. While most trusts contain provisions that provide a trustee with direction on how to manage and distribute a trust’s assets, an incentive trust requires that a beneficiary fulfill certain conditions.

Using a QTIP trust to provide for biological children and a surviving spouse

In our last blog post, we began discussing some of the benefits of trusts. Specifically we discussed a credit-shelter or family trust and why this type of trust is often an attractive option for individuals who remarry and want to provide an income stream for a surviving spouse and also, eventually, their children from a previous marriage.

Another option for accomplishing these same goals, with more of an emphasis on providing for one's children, is to use a qualified terminable interest property trust or QTIP trust. Using a QTIP trust, an individual establishes and funds a trust and interest accrued on a trust's assets is paid to a widowed spouse. However, upon the widowed spouse's death, the total amount of a trust's assets passes to the trust creator's children.

A primer on trusts—the different types and advantages

There's a lot of hype in the estate planning world about trusts and how a trust can be used to benefit both the individual who establishes it as well as the beneficiaries of a trust. Yet, for many people, there's still a lot of confusion about what exactly a trust is and why, for many people in various situations, a trust is preferable to a will.

Key advantages of a trust include avoiding probate, reducing estate and gift taxes, greater control over how and when assets are distributed and protection against creditors and lawsuits. While these positive attributes apply to all trusts, there are various types of trusts from which an individual may select to accomplish specific estate planning goals.

When a parent's death ignites war between siblings

For many parents, a chief goal of an estate plan centers on providing for the financial security of one’s children. Additionally, parents often aim to ensure that personal effects are retained by and disbursed among one's children. In a perfect scenario, grown siblings would be able to reasonably, fairly and peaceably divide a parent's personal belongings. Too often, however, long-seeded rivalries between siblings reemerge upon a parent's death and wars are waged over seemingly minor and petty things.

For siblings, the death of a parent can stir up all sorts of difficult emotions and learning that a parent has left a prized sentimental possession to a brother or sister can be difficult to accept. When a parent is no longer around to explain his or her reasoning for making a decision or to run interference between quarreling siblings, things can quickly get out of hand and result in a legal battle.

What are the differences between a revocable and irrevocable trust?

Many people in Massachusetts are likely somewhat familiar with the estate planning tool known as a trust. Trusts are among the most effective and beneficial of all estate planning tools and they can be used to provide for one's child, favorite charity and beloved pet. There are many different types of trusts and, depending on an individual's short and long-term goals, an estate planning professional can provide information and advice about which trust is appropriate.

In previous blogs, we've discussed some of the basic components of a special needs trust and pet trust. In this blog, we'll take a look at revocable and irrevocable trusts and provide examples related to when and why an individual may decide to choose one versus the other. 

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