Our goal in assisting clients with their estate planning is to create a plan that gives them control over how their assets and health care decisions will be made when they are unable due to incapacity, illness or death. Without a creating a properly detailed plan, you lose control over how your assets are handled if you become incompetent and when you die.
Following are the essential documents you should have in your estate plan, at a minimum. These documents must incorporate your current family and financial situation and be kept up to date to reflect changes:
- Durable Financial Power of Attorney, naming someone to manage your financial affairs while you are alive. This is called durable because it remains effective when you become incompetent. A power of attorney becomes ineffective upon you death.
- Health Care Power of Attorney, designating someone to manage health care decisions if you are unable. In Massachusetts, known as a Health Care Proxy.
- Living Will, which outlines your end-of-life and disability preferences, commonly referred to as “pulling the plug.”
- Last Will and Testament, directing how your property is distributed to your beneficiaries on your death. For parents of minor children, it would be irresponsible not to designate the Guardians who would raise their children in the event both parents deceased.
We review all the assets our clients have and help them think through how each will be transferred on their death or incapacity. After such a review, many clients realize a Living, or Revocable Trust is most effective for them.
We also review beneficiary designations for life insurance, retirement plans and beneficiary designated accounts. Many clients do not realize that most of their assets may not be controlled by their Will or Trust
This page only scratches the surface of basic estate planning, but we would be happy to set up an interview to discuss your options. If you have an estate that would incur state or federal Estate Tax, planning becomes more sophisticated, but very satisfying for your beneficiaries.
If you are interested in doing some homework, we recommend The Wall Street Journal Complete Estate Planning Guidebook by Rachel Emma Silverman, or American Bar Association Guide to Wills and Estates, Third Edition: Everything You Need to Know About Wills, Estates, Trusts, and Taxes (American Bar Association Guide to Wills & Estates) or Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide by Deborah L. Jacobs.