As the New Year begins, it’s time to think about securing your future and that of your loved ones. Creating an estate plan can be a vital step in ensuring that your wishes are honored and your assets are distributed according to your wishes. If you live in Southeastern Massachusetts, the accomplished estate planning attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski are here to guide you through the process.
Papers To Have Available When You First Consult With Our Attorney
Preparing for your consultation with an estate planning attorney is critical. Having the right documents and information at hand can streamline the process and ensure that nothing is overlooked. Here’s what you should bring:
- Identification Documents such as a driver’s license or passport.
- Asset Documentation, including details of property ownership, investments, bank accounts, insurance policies, and any other significant assets.
- Debt Information, including records of mortgages, loans, credit lines, and other liabilities.
- Family Information, including names and ages of dependents.
- Existing Legal Documents like wills, trusts, powers of attorney, or advance directives.
- Pertinent Questions you want to ask your estate planning attorney, such as:
- How can I ensure my assets are protected from probate?
- What can I do to minimize estate taxes?
- How can I best provide for my special needs child?
Essential Documents Everyone Should Have
A comprehensive estate plan typically includes several key documents. Preparing these for you will be high on our list of priorities:
Will specify how your assets will be distributed, who will manage your estate, and who will be the guardian of your minor children if you pass prematurely.
Durable Power of Attorney to designate the person you want to handle your financial and legal affairs if you’re unable to do so.
Health Care Proxy to name the individual you want to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
Advance Directive (Healthcare Directive) to outline your wishes for end-of-life care if you cannot communicate them yourself.
Beneficiary Designations to ensure that certain assets (e.g. bank accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts) are transferred directly to your beneficiaries upon your death.
Trusts Can Be Invaluable
A trust is a legal arrangement in which one party holds property for the benefit of another. Trusts can serve various purposes depending on your circumstances:
Revocable Living Trusts allow for asset management during your lifetime and distribution after your death, often without the need for probate.
Irrevocable Trusts, usually not subject to modification, can be used for tax benefits and asset protection.
Charitable Trusts enable you to donate to charities you want to support and receive tax benefits as well.
Special Needs Trusts are designed to benefit individuals with disabilities while maintaining their eligibility for government benefits like Medicaid (MassHealth).
Spendthrift Trusts protect vulnerable loved ones who are irresponsible with money from blowing through their inheritance.
Steps To Take If You Already Have an Estate Plan
Even if you have created an estate plan, unless you update it regularly it may not meet your goals. For the New Year, resolve to consult with one of our skilled estate planning attorneys
to keep your plan current, take note of:
- Changes in the family: Marriage, divorce, birth, death, educational and training choices
- Financial Changes: Significant changes in your income, the receipt of an inheritance, a costly crisis
- Legal Changes: Changes in state or federal laws or changes in loved one’s legal names or personal profiles
- Changes in your perspective: Changes in your views and expectations