What Is Estate Planning?

elderly woman consulting with a younger woman

Estate planning involves planning in advance for how you’d like your assets to be distributed when you pass away. The main purpose of estate planning is to control how your assets are given to the individuals or organizations you care about the most. Other important estate planning goals include tax planning, caring for your minor children, indicating your healthcare wishes, and long-term care planning.

Learn More About The Estate Planning Process

Are you interested in estate planning but not sure where to start? You aren’t alone. Discussing your goals and questions with an estate planning attorney can help you navigate the process smoothly. Surprenant & Beneski, PC is a premier estate planning and elder law practice serving clients throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about our legal services.

Estate Planning Basics

Estate planning involves creating legal documents that give you control over how your financial assets are distributed after you pass away. Those with comprehensive estate plans enjoy peace of mind knowing that their loved ones will have financial security when they are no longer here. 

Well-drafted estate plans should include several important legal documents, such as a last will and testament, a trust agreement, an advance care directive, a durable power of attorney, and more. Every estate plan is unique and will vary based on a person’s financial situation, goals, needs, and circumstances. An estate plan allows a person to decide who will make medical decisions and control their finances if they become incapacitated.

The Estate Planning Process

The first step in creating an estate plan is acknowledging that you need an estate plan and deciding to follow through. Once you decide to create an estate plan, you should begin thinking about how you would like your assets to be distributed. Would you like your beneficiary or beneficiaries to receive all of your assets after you pass away? 

Alternatively, would you like your assets to be distributed over a period of time and managed by a trust? Would you like a charitable organization to benefit from your assets after passing away? These are all important questions you should ask yourself when deciding how to distribute your assets.

When you’ve decided how you like to distribute your assets, you should begin gathering financial documents and making an inventory of all of your assets. It’s also important to consider who you’d like to act as your health care agent and what types of medical decisions you’d like your agent to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. At this point in the process, meeting with an estate planning attorney can be beneficial. You can ask your estate-planning attorney questions, discuss your goals, and work with your attorney to create an estate plan that meets your needs. A skilled estate planning attorney will have creative solutions to any challenges you encounter during the estate planning process. 

Do I Need an Estate Plan?

Sometimes people assume that only the wealthy or those approaching retirement need an estate plan. Estate planning is important for everybody, not just for wealthy individuals. Comprehensive estate planning is essential for families in all economic situations. 

A lack of estate planning can result in costly and time-consuming problems when distributing a person’s estate. Additionally, without an estate plan in place, your assets will be distributed according to Massachusetts probate law. As a result, a person you wouldn’t have chosen could inherit your hard-earned assets. 

Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

None of us can predict how long we will live, and accidents and illnesses can happen to people of all ages. Many people put off estate planning because they think they are old enough or don’t own enough assets or that they’ll have time to do it later. At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we believe that everyone over age 18 benefits from creating an estate plan. 

We have experience working with clients from various backgrounds and understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to estate planning. Estate planning allows you to protect your assets, plan for future health care expenses, provide for your loved ones, and protect your minor children.

What Is a Will?

There are two main types of estate plans, a will-based estate plan, and a trust-based estate plan. A will is a foundational estate planning document that declares how your property will be managed and distributed after you pass away. If you have minor children, you will need to create a will to name a guardian who will care for your minor children. Without a will, the Massachusetts probate court will make these decisions for you.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legal document transferring ownership of your property into the trust. A trustee will manage the assets to benefit the beneficiaries. The main benefit of a trust is avoiding the probate process. There are many types of trust, including revocable living trust and irrevocable trust.

Indicate Your Health Care Wishes

An estate plan also protects you if you become incapacitated due to an illness or injury. Your estate plan should include an advance care directive that appoints an agent who can make medical decisions if you become incapacitated. You can also state which types of medical treatments you would or would not like to happen if you cannot make decisions for yourself. Finally, a comprehensive estate plan should include provisions allowing you to pay for long-term healthcare in the future without draining all of your resources. 

Reach Out to an Estate Planning Attorney in Southeastern Massachusetts

The estate planning process can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. The attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski, PC, can help you get your affairs in order and develop a plan for protecting yourself and your loved ones. We will listen carefully to your needs and goals and work with you, communicating every step of the way. Contact Surprenant & Beneski, PC today to schedule your initial consultation and learn more about your estate planning options.