No matter what stage of life they’re in, everyone should take time to plan their estate.
We can help you make sure that your loved ones are properly taken care of throughout your life and theirs. Having a comprehensive estate plan is an important way to plan for the future and make sure all your wishes are met upon your passing.
The documents below are necessary for a thorough, effective, and comprehensive estate plan. Vickstrom Law, PC will work diligently to execute the proper documents so you are protected for years to come. You can also read the article, What really happens to your estate if you die without a Will in MA? for more information.
Last Will & Testament
Your Last Will & Testament appoints a Personal Representative (formerly referred to as Executor) to manage your estate after your death and distributes your property according to your wishes. If you were to pass without a Will your property is distributed according to Massachusetts’ Law of Intestacy. At a minimum, a basic estate plan should include a valid Will that will carry out your final wishes.
A Will is especially important if you have minor children. A Will can also appoint a Guardian for your minor children. This will work in conjunction with the Emergency Guardianship Proxy by nominating the permanent Guardian for your children, who can be appointed while the Emergency Guardianship fills the gap in time. Property you leave to minor children will not pass to them directly. It will instead be held by their Guardian until they reach the age of 18. If you want more control over how the funds are used and when they are distributed to your children, consider a Testamentary Trust or a Revocable Trust .
Durable Power of Attorney
Should you become incapacitated, this crucial document ensures that your affairs continue to be handled exactly as you desire, by someone you’ve chosen to do so, called an Attorney-in-Fact. Their role can include managing bank accounts, real estate, and many other financial matters.
Health Care Proxy
This essential document appoints a person of your choosing to make important health care decisions for you, on your behalf, if you are physically and/or mentally incapacitated. Your chosen agent will have the power to make important medical decisions for you including medications and treatment options.
A properly executed Living Will – or life support statement – is meant to assist your appointed Health Care Proxy on what exactly your wishes are in the event you cannot state your medical treatment wishes. Though not legally enforceable in Massachusetts, many people choose to have a Living Will prepared to serve as a guide for their named Health Care Proxy . Although, we at Vickstrom Law, PC believe that nothing can replace open and thoughtful conversations with your children and/or chosen Health Care Agent(s).
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization is what allows the named Health Care Agent under your Health Care Proxy access to vital medical records. This document is vital because under HIPAA your physician may not even be able to discuss your privileged medical information, disclosing to your named agent that you have lost capacity and that your Health Care Proxy should be activated. It will also allow your named Health Care Agent to contact doctors and insurance companies on your behalf, including dealing with billing issues.
A Trust is a document that dictates how assets of the Trust are to be managed and distributed by the Trustee. There are many uses for Trusts. Trusts can be used to reduce estate taxes and to protect assets from your creditors, or from the creditors of family members. Trusts can also be used to manage assets for people who are unable to manage their own assets or are too young to have control over a large amount of assets. Various types of Trusts accomplish these goals.
Revocable Trusts, or a Trust that can be changed at any time, are mostly used to avoid probate. By drafting Revocable Trusts and funding the Trusts during one’s lifetime, you can maintain control of your assets and still have them distributed to our survivors without having to go through the probate court. If you choose, you can revoke, or make changes, to the Trust at any time. If you create a Revocable Trust during your lifetime you will still need a simple “pour over” Will to direct any assets located outside of your Revocable Trust at the time of your passing to be distributed to your survivors.
Irrevocable Trusts, on the other hand, cannot be amended or revoked, except under certain, strict circumstances. They are mostly used as a vehicle to plan for MassHealth eligibility, or to reduce or eliminate estate taxes.