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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

How your heirs waste money and what you can do about it

As you craft your estate plan, you can't help worrying about ways that your heirs are going to waste your money. The risk feels too real when you start designating assets you've worked to save up for decades, and you think about how someone else may not respect the time and effort that took.

For example, here are a few of the most common ways that millennials tend to waste their own money:

  1. Going out to eat: 72.36 percent
  2. Throwing away food that did not get eaten: 31.71 percent
  3. Drinking alcohol: 27.36 percent
  4. Paying for various forms of entertainment: 26.50 percent
  5. Credit cards: 17.36 percent

Beneficiary designations are part of estate planning

Do you assume that estate planning essentially just means writing out a will that says which one of your heirs gets which assets? That's part of the process, but it's definitely not the entire process.

You need to fulfill multiple steps and consider the ways that some of your documents interact with one another.

Should you use an oral will?

Traditionally, a will is a written document that is drafted and filed long before you actually pass away, and your heirs need to use it. However, you may have also considered simply using an oral will to save yourself these steps. Is it a good idea?

Technically, you may be able to use an oral will in Massachusetts. Not all states have laws that allow them, but Massachusetts does in some situations. That does not mean they can always be used, though, so you are taking a bit of a risk.

Educational trusts and the student debt crisis

You're thinking about how your assets can do the most good for your family. While estate planning is about getting everything in order, legally speaking, you know that it's also a chance to help them plan for their future.

One option you may want to consider is making educational trusts for your heirs who still need to go to college. Depending on your own age, this could mean children or grandchildren. An educational trust protects the money from frivolous spending and sets it aside for direct educational costs.

Why medical power of attorney documents help your family

A medical power of attorney is a document that gives someone else the power to make your healthcare decisions in a situation when you can't do it for yourself. This could be during end-of-life treatment, for instance, when you lack the ability to communicate your wishes to the medical team.

Another important document, known as an advance directive, allows you to list your wishes explicitly. You can make key decisions in advance so that no one has to make them in the future. For instance, if you don't want to be resuscitated, you can put down that stipulation long before it's an issue.

Updating your will in response to life changes

People make a lot of mistakes when they do their estate planning, but one of the most common ones is that they don't do it often enough. They make the plan, but they fail to update it or look at it again. They simply trust that it's going to work.

It might, but this is a massive risk. Life changes. Things happen. Your estate plan has to reflect that. It needs to be updated.

5 key estate planning steps

Writing a will and drafting an estate plan is something that you want to take very seriously. It has a drastic impact on your family after you pass away.

With that in mind, here are five key steps:

  • Choose who you want to leave your assets to. These individuals are your beneficiaries. It is best to name them specifically and lay out exactly which assets they will receive.
  • Pick the person who will make sure it happens. This is the executor. They will be in charge of handling your affairs and distributing your assets in accordance with the will.
  • Don't give any vague directions. Doing so can cause disputes when people do not agree on exactly what you meant or what you wanted.
  • If you still have children who are under 18 years old, choose a guardian for them. This needs to be someone you trust. This person can act as a parent and raise them if need be. They can also help them with assets if you don't want to leave what you own directly to minors.
  • Set up a plan to update your will. It may be as simple as saying that you will check it over once a year. You definitely want to update it after major events like a marriage or a divorce. Always make sure that your estate plan reflects what you truly want.

Tax tips for large estates

You've worked all your life to build what you have. You spent years in school, internships and working your way up the corporate ladder to get where you are today. Don't let all of it come crashing down after you are gone by facing high taxes on your estate. Today, we will take a look at some tax tips for large estates so your family members are not hit with massive taxes upon your death.

One of the first things you should do, especially if you have a college-aged dependent, is pay college expenses. These payments must be made directly to the college or university and not funneled through your child. The funds cannot be used to pay for room and board. These payments are unlimited and will not affect your gift tax and federal estate exemptions.

What makes for a legally-binding will in Massachusetts?

One of the worst mistakes you can make in life -- from an estate planning perspective -- is to try to draft a last will and testament by yourself. There are just too many pitfalls that the untrained testator can experience when trying to draft a will without professional help. While you can read and understand the law, there are some things you simply won't know without appropriate training.

That being said, here are the basics on Massachusetts will creation that you might want to understand:

  • Your Massachusetts will falls under the legal statutes found in Massachusetts General Laws Chapters 190B and 191.
  • The age of the testator is important when drafting a will. In Massachusetts, the testator must be a person at least 18 years of age and of sound mind in order to create a will.
  • The testator needs to sign his or her will and it has to be in writing. Otherwise, another person can sign it in the presence of the testator -- as long as the testator is conscious and of sound mind, and the signature was done under his or her direction.
  • In Massachusetts, two or more competent people need to sign the will. Or, they need to witness the testator's acknowledgment that the signature on the will is valid.

Why would a family want to set up a living trust?

If your attorney is recommending that you create a living trust, you might want to listen to him carefully as he may have your best interests, and your family's best interests, in mind. Although a living trust won't be in the cards forever, there are some important benefits that could save your family a tremendous amount of time and money later on down the road. Here are some of the most essential benefits of a living trust:

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