Essential Estate Planning Documents You Need
Estate planning can seem complicated, but having the right legal documents in place provides protection for you and your loved ones. As a Massachusetts divorce and family law attorney, my clients often need estate planning services. I work closely with experienced estate planning lawyers to ensure my clients have comprehensive plans to safeguard their assets and provide for their families. In this blog, I discuss the key estate planning documents Massachusetts residents should consider.
Last Will and Testament
A will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. It provides instructions on how you want your assets distributed after you pass away. Without a will in Massachusetts, your estate will go through probate and be divided among your heirs according to state intestacy laws, which may not align with your wishes. Your will should name an executor to oversee settling your estate and specify beneficiaries to inherit your property. Parents of minor children should designate a guardian in their wills to assume care and custody if needed.
Revocable Living Trust
A revocable living trust also controls asset distribution after death and has additional benefits during your lifetime. Assets transferred into the trust avoid probate and can be managed by your designated trustee if you become incapacitated. A trust gives you flexibility to change assets and beneficiaries while you're living. It also keeps the details of your estate private, unlike a will filed in public court records. Trusts can be especially useful for those wanting to minimize estate taxes.
Power of Attorney
This document authorizes someone to manage your financial affairs if you're unavailable or unable to do so yourself. Your appointed agent can pay bills, file taxes, and make investment decisions on your behalf. Financial POAs can be effective immediately or "spring" into effect only when needed. Durable POAs remain in place if you become incapacitated. Choose your agent wisely - this is someone with legal control over your money.
A healthcare proxy (also called a healthcare power of attorney) allows you to select someone to make medical decisions if you're unable to. Your agent can consent to treatments, access health records, and carry out your end-of-life wishes. A healthcare proxy is essential for anyone who wants a loved one to handle healthcare matters rather than a court-appointed guardian.
Advance Healthcare Directive
Advance directives complement your healthcare proxy by providing written instructions about your preferences for care, especially near the end of life. These legal forms (called living wills in some states) document whether you want interventions like CPR, breathing tubes, feeding tubes, dialysis, and pain medication if you have a terminal diagnosis or are in a vegetative state.
Having carefully drafted estate planning documents gives you control over what happens to your assets, minor children, healthcare, and more if you pass away or become incapacitated. As a Massachusetts divorce and family law attorney, I refer clients to trusted estate planning lawyers to ensure their comprehensive plans reflect their wishes. Contact a qualified attorney to discuss creating or updating your Massachusetts estate plan.
Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and readers should not act upon any information provided without seeking professional legal counsel. The author does not guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided. This blog is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.