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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

Married couples: Remember the small things in your will

When most people sit down to make a will, they think of the big items: the home, the bank account, the investment portfolios, the life insurance policies. They may be more prone to forget about the small things.

Big items are important and should certainly be considered. However, if you pass away before your spouse, provisions may already be in place to help with the transfer.

Don't only consider health when thinking about advance directives

An advance directive can tell your children what you want them to do in terms of medical care. You can also set up a medical power of attorney, giving a child the power to make those decisions for you.

Many people just think about their current health. If you're very healthy and have no long-term issues, it's easy to assume that you don't need an advance directive. You can make your own medical decisions, so why tell the kids what you want them to do? Can't you just do that when you're older?

1 great tip for breaking the ice on estate planning

Did you know that roughly 50 percent of people in the United States have not done enough estate planning to even have a will? These people all know that they'll need one eventually, but they simply haven't drafted and filed one.

This is something people often put off because it means having a conversation with loved ones about death, a very sensitive subject. They may not want to bring it up with an elderly spouse, for instance, or may not want to sit down and talk to the kids about their own passing. It can feel awkward and troubling.

What tasks does a financial agent carry out?

Using a financial power of attorney, you essentially make someone else your financial agent. This gives them legal power to handle your money. They're obligated to work toward your best interests, but they do things that you can't realistically do for yourself at your age.

What all this includes can be different in every case, but a few examples are as follows:

A trust could help your child with a grandparent's money

A grandparent leaves money to one of your children. The child is only 10, so you're named as a guardian. Essentially, the money is under your control until the child is no longer a minor.

However, you're worried about what could happen down the line. Is your child the type of person who tends to blow through money quickly? Though the child is technically an adult at 18, are you concerned that handing the full sum to an 18-year-old means it won't be spent wisely?

A judge can alter strange requests in your will

If you're thinking of putting some rather strange requests in your will, it is worth noting that a judge may be able to alter them if your heirs mount a legal challenge.

For example, a woman who was a hotel owner and a real estate investor left $5M for her heirs, who were grandsons, as her own son -- their father -- had passed away. She said in her will that they had to go to his grave and pay their respects annually to get the money.

Trends could change your estate planning

If you're thinking of simply leaving your possessions to your children, one thing to consider is the way current trends are going around the time you'll pass those items on. They could have a huge impact on whether or not the kids actually want the stuff you've accumulated.

Parents often assume that children will want their possessions. They imagine a dinning room table at their son's house or a set of dishes from their wedding going to their daughter. They think of their grandchildren sitting around on the same chairs from their living room, watching TV or reading books.

Do estate taxes target money that was already taxed?

One common complaint about estate taxes is that they simply target money that was already taxed at least once, as income.

For instance, perhaps you are an only child and you have one surviving parent: your father. He earns money, pays taxes to the government when he earns it, and then puts it aside. When he passes away, here comes the government to tax it again just because it's passing to you.

Why you may want a will at a young age

You're still young, and you don't anticipate using a will for decades. You're not even married yet, and you're still in college. Do you actually need a will?

When you decide to draft a will is up to you, but it's not wise to assume they're only needed by the elderly. Sadly, young people pass away every day due to disease, accidents, crime and many other things of that nature. You may want a will simply because you can't predict when that's going to happen to you.

Important points for retirement and estate planning

The mantra of investment commercials focuses on preparing baby boomers who are close to retirement age with the wisdom and knowledge to retire with enough income to enjoy the good life. Indeed, limiting risk is just as important to retirement planning as it is to estate planning. Because of this, there are several things that soon-to-be retirees should keep in mind as you plan for the next stage of your life.

Know about your pension benefits – It is important to understand the different ways that you may receive a pension. Believe it or not, there can be up to 10 ways to take advantage of your benefits. This would require a conversation with a human resources director or benefits specialist to learn what would be best for you.

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