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What is an estate plan and why do you need one?

Massachusetts residents may be interested in an article discussing some of the basics of estate planning and why a person would need to implement such a plan. Relatives of a person who dies without an estate plan in place could be at a disadvantage.

The purpose of estate planning is to ensure that the distribution of assets and other matters at the end of one's life are carried out according to their wishes. Failure to have the proper documents prepared can lead to the decedent's property being distributed in accordance with state laws of intestacy, which may be different than what had been desired. Often, those with little to leave to their relatives neglect to prepare even a simple will, thinking that it would be a waste of time. However, a will can also direct guardianship of children and other matters that apply to more people than merely wealthy individuals.

Depending on the nature of a person's holdings, a may be all that is needed. However, with more assets comes more complexity, so additional documents may be necessary. These documents must be kept up to date, reflecting any major developments in a person's life. Other items that could serve useful roles in an estate plan include a financial power of attorney and a health care proxy, documents that are used when a person is still alive, but unable to make decisions due to incapacity. They ensure that whoever is entrusted with the decision-making follows the listed instructions about health care and financial matters.

Setting up an estate plan, whether simple or complex, can provide benefits for a person's financial and familial legacy. An attorney with estate planning experience can often help draft these documents in order to successfully navigate the probate process and other estate issues.

Source: CBS Boston, "Estate Planning 101", Dee Lee, March 21, 2014

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