Every estate plan is unique, but there are certain documents that appear in most plans. Each of these serve an important purpose, which is why they are so often incorporated. Here are four documents to include in a Massachusetts estate plan.
1 – Will
A will is the most basic estate planning document. In it, you state your wishes including distribution of assets to heirs, guardians for children, etc. If you have other estate planning instruments, such as trusts, this document will transfer remaining assets into that trust. Wills can be changed at any time. In fact, it’s recommended that you review and update them at least once every year. It should be notarized and signed in front of witnesses to avoid disputes by potential heirs.
2 – Health Care Proxy
A healthcare proxy allows you to name a trusted individual to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. For example, you may be in a comma or otherwise incapacitated due to a sudden accident or severe illness. Without this document, your family may need to petition the court. Additionally, the person authorized by the courts may not be the same person that you would choose. Including a healthcare proxy in your will puts this decision in your hands. You can also share thoughts on life sustaining treatments and nutrition/hydration.
3 – Power of Attorney
Imagine that you are in a comma. Who will pay your rent/mortgage, car payments, credit card bills, utility expenses, etc? And what will happen if those items go unpaid for an extended period of time? A power of attorney is one of the most important documents to include in a Massachusetts estate plan. It allows someone else to manage your financial affairs while you are still living but unable to do so yourself.
4 – Trust
Trusts go beyond a will by allowing you more control over what happens to your assets. There are many types of trusts, each with different features and benefits. They can help avoid a lengthy probate process, reduce taxes, provide support for special needs dependents, prevent large lump sum distributions to beneficiaries, and more. Some trusts can be changed or replaced at any time while others are permanent. By understanding your overall goals, your estate planning attorney can help you select the right type of trust for your estate plan.
Additional Documents to Include in a Massachusetts Estate Plan
The above is just an overview of documents to include in a Massachusetts estate plan. The specific language in each document can vary greatly and depends on your personal circumstances. No one template or approach works for everyone. Be wary of online templates as they will not address your specific needs or they may be missing important terms. With someone as valuable and important as an estate plan, it’s best to work with an estate planning professional to protect your rights and interests. Contact us to schedule an appointment for a Massachusetts estate planning consultation.