What is Estate Planning?
“Where there is a will, there is a say.”
As the name implies, estate planning is creating a plan to deal with unintended life changing events. It is legally memorializing one’s wishes to be later enforced in the event of death or incapacity. Unlike other areas of law, estate planning is a preventative practice of law. Simply put, you set up your estate plan when you are alive, have mental capacity and do not need it, because when you do need it, due to death or mental incapacity, the opportunity for planning is lost.
Assessing your unique circumstances, family dynamics, and individual goals ensures that a customized estate plan is drawn up and implemented to effectively carry out your wishes. To that end, specific documents are prepared and signed to protect your financial and health care well being, ensure the proper distribution of your property, and provide for the care and custody of your minor children.
The foundation of an estate plan consists of a Last Will and Testament, Health Care Proxy (including an Advance Directives and HIPAA Authorization Release), and Durable Power of Attorney. In the situation where you have minor children (under the age of 18), a Family Trust and Emergency Guardianship Proxy are also prepared. Click here to see The Simple Estate Plan overview.
When the total value of your estate is less than $1,000,000.00 (the current Massachusetts estate tax exemption), your estate plan need not be overly complicated. However, even a “simple” estate plan should be comprehensive and designed to address foreseeable events such as death, disability, and incapacity.
Contrary to public misconception, a Last Will and Testament does not dispose of the need to probate an estate. To the contrary, the Last Will and Testament simply streamlines the probate process by nominating a personal representative and dispenses with some legal formalities imposed by the Court. However, property held in a Family Trust at the time of one’s death avoids the probate process and associated time, cost, and expense.
See how a Family Trust can benefit you and your family.