An estate plan, simply put, is a set of documents that spell out what you want to happen with your children, your money and your belongings when you can no longer make those decisions.
It allows you to control your property while you're alive, take care of yourself and your loved ones if you become disabled, and give what you have, to whom you want, how and when you want. Furthermore, it can help save every last tax dollar, professional fee, and court cost legally possible.
Some of the big reasons are:
A will is a public document that lays out your wishes regarding your property; it can name a guardian and conservator for your minor children and names an executor - the person in charge of your estate when you die.
A trust is a private document that names a trustee to be in charge of any assets held in the trust for the benefit of your named beneficiaries. It gives control over when and how your beneficiaries will receive their inheritance, it can be structured to minimize the tax burden, and if you are married, allows you to take advantage of tax benefits, among other things.
A durable power of attorney is a document that gives an individual the power to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
A health care proxy is a document that names an individual to make health care decisions for you should you become unfit to make these decisions yourself.
A HIPAA form is a document that allows a particular person or party to share health information with another person or group.
A living will is not enforceable in Massachusetts, but its purpose is to state your wishes regarding end-of-life care.
A pre-marital agreement is a document used at marriage and at death to clarify a couple's financial obligations to each other and can preserve assets for children from a prior marriage.
A homestead is a document that is recorded to protect the value (up to a specific dollar amount) of your primary residence from unsecured creditor claims.
An appointment of guardian of a minor is a document that appoints a guardian in the event you become incapacitated.
Can my spouse and I have a joint will?
No. Massachusetts does not allow joint wills, even if all your property is owned jointly.
How and when should I change my estate plan?
You should review your estate plan every three to five years, and sooner if your marital status changes, one of your named representatives or trustees dies, you have moved, the tax laws change, there is a change needed for a specific beneficiary, or some other major change occurs.
What is Probate and why should I avoid it? Probate is the legal process for distributing your property after you die. If you don't have a will, the court will determine who takes your estate and will decide who will be guardian of your children.
How much will an estate plan cost?
That depends. Our firm generally charges a flat fee based on your needs. The fee usually ranges between $750 - $6000, from a basic plan with assets under $1 million, to more complicated plans, including but not limited to assets over $1 million, medicaid planning, multiple trusts, out of state properties, blended families, family businesses, special needs trusts. A la carte documents are also offered.
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