An Estate Planning Attorney for Southeastern Massachusetts
Planning for the inevitable is never an easy task. However, if you fail to do so it could result in more stress and heartache for your loved ones if something unexpectantly happens to you.
While the Commonwealth of Massachusetts laws provide a guide for how they think your property should be divided after your death, those decisions may not be the ones you would make yourself. That is why you should engage with a skilled Estate Planning Attorney in your area to make sure that you have the documents in place that properly override the States decisions with your own. There are numerous documents in a fully thought out Estate Plan, some are important, and some are voluntary. Call us today to start planning and take the burden off of your loved ones.
Your Last Will and Testament
Your Last Will and Testament is probably the document everyone knows and thinks of when talking about making your Estate Plan. This document sets forth your decisions regarding who gets your property and money after you pass on. This document also has the important role of designating who you want to handle your estate to make sure your wishes followed. This is also a good place to designate who you would like to be the guardians of any minor children or animal companions. All parents and pet owners should document their choice to make sure that there is no family fighting over who takes the children and no confusion over who your loved animal companions go to.
There are some things to remember about Your Last Will and Testament though. One thing to keep in mind is that while you will sign your Last Will and Testament, have your witnesses sign the document, and even have the document notarized it has no legal authority until after your death. This means the document does not help with handling your property and affairs if you are incapacitated. Another important distinction is that your Will does NOT help avoid probate. The Last Will and Testament is the document that your designated person submits to the Probate Court to allow them to begin transferring the property solely owned by you.
Trusts: Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, etc.
There are many kinds of Trusts that range from simple to complex and serve varying types of legal purposes. As a simplified explanation a Trust is a legal entity that is created by a grantor, managed by a trustee, and established to provide for the beneficiary. In some instances, those three can be the same person or people. There may be benefits to establishing a trust depending on your situation. In most cases, assets owned in a revocable living trust will pass to the trust beneficiaries immediately upon the death of the grantor(s) with no probate required. Certain trusts also may result in estate tax advantages. They may also be used to protect property from creditors, or even just to allow someone else to manage the property for the grantor(s) and beneficiaries to take that burden off of them.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives another person the legal right to do certain things for you. Those powers are designated in the terms of the document and may give broad powers or very limited and specific powers. All Power of Attorney documents terminate upon the death of the principle (person making the document) and may even terminate upon the principle’s incapacitation. A Durable Power of Attorney is a common document in Estate Planning as it establishes a designated person to make decisions if you are unable to communicate your wishes due to incapacitation.
The alternative process that your family and loved ones would need to go through in order to make the same decisions provided for in the Durable Power of Attorney involves petitioning the Probate Court to have someone appointed your conservator to manage your finances. The conservator must use your money to purchase a bond (an insurance product guaranteeing that you will be reimbursed if the conservator steals your money) and they must file an inventory of all that you own with the court, reporting annually to the court. This process is time consuming (as much as 3 months), public (requiring publication in newspapers), and costly (around $5,000 not including the cost of the bond). Therefore, it is much wiser to set up a Durable Power of Attorney now before some unfortunate injury or illness renders you incapacitated.
Health Care Proxys
Where the Durable Power of Attorney allows you to designate someone to handle your property and affairs in the event that you are incapacitated, the Health Care Proxy document allows you to designate a person (either the same one or a different person) to make medical decisions for you. In Massachusetts, only an agent designated under a properly created Health Care Proxy or a Guardian may make medical decisions for an incapacitated individual. Anyone over 18 years old may create a Health Care Proxy. Under Massachusetts law, the designated agent does not have any authority to make medical decisions until a doctor declares, in writing, that the maker is not capable of making his or her own medical decisions.
Like with the Power of Attorney document, absent a Health Care Proxy your family would probably need to petition the court to have someone named as your Guardian. This presents similar issues with time, publicity, and cost that not having the Durable Power of Attorney would.
Hand in Hand with your Health Care Proxy is the HIPAA Authorization. This authorizes your medical providers to allow the designated individuals to access your medical information. Federal Law prohibits most medical providers from sharing your private information with anyone, because your Health Care Proxy is not in effect until your doctor declares that you are incapable of making your own decisions, this may result in your family members and designated decision maker being unable to communicate with your medical team.
Initial 45-minute consultation by phone or office visit to gather relevant information. Additional time may be purchased with advanced notice.
Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will, Health Care Proxy, and HIPAA Release
(Trust not included)
Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, and HIPAA Releases.
(Trust not included)
Last Will and Testament with Pour over Provision, Health Care Proxy with HIPAA Release, Durable Financial Power of Attorney, and Revocable Trust.
Family Plan – Two Last Will and Testaments, Two Health Care Proxies with HIPAA Releases, Two Durable Financial Power of Attorneys, and Two Separate Revocable Trusts (one for each spouse).
Single Joint Revocable Trust for married couples (with marital and bypass shares), Two Last Will and Testaments, Two Health Care Proxies with HIPAA Releases, Two Durable Financial Power of Attorneys.
Cost will vary and will be determined after phone consultation
The Hourly Rate would be utilized for matters outside of those in the menu above or for court appearances. You will be informed if the rate is going to apply and given an estimate of hours expected in advance.
*Does not include filing fees