Estate Planning 

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I. Reasons to Prepare an Estate Plan

  • Name a Guardian for your minor children
  • Retain some control over your assets even after your death
  • To declare who gets what and when
  • Avoid Probate
  • Reduce or avoid taxes
  • Prepare for your own incapacity
  • Provide for a favorite cause


II. Professionals that you may need

  • Estate Planning/Elder Law Attorney
  • Financial Planner
  • Accountant


III. Reasons to Review your Estate Plan


  • You have married, divorced, separated or remarried
  • A child or grandchild has been born
  • You have changed domiciles
  • There is a change in tax laws
  • Your assets have increased or decreased in value
  • Your relationship with a beneficiary has changed or a beneficiary’s needs have changed


IV. What Contitutes the Probate Estate

  • Real Estate in just your name
  • Bank Accounts in just your name
  • Any personal belongings owned at the time of death


V. What Constitutes the Taxable Estate

  • All assets included in the Probate Estate
  • Half of all assets held jointly with your spouse
  • All assets held jointly with someone other than your spouse (other than those portions paid for by the joint tenant)
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Any gifts made within three years of death
  • Less a credit for funeral expenses, estate administration fees, bills owed, unpaid taxes, mortgages and liens as well as any charitable deductions


VI. Documents comprising the typical Estate Plan (not intended to be a complete list)

  1. Will – The document which handles your affairs (both personal property and real estate) after your death. Certain roles must be defined in the will:
    1. Executor – The person who works with the Probate Attorney in administering the will
    2. Guardian – Person named to care for your minor children
    3. Specific Beneficiaries – Specific items you want to leave for specific people
    4. Residuary Beneficiaries – The person or people who is/are named to receive all remaining items in your probate estate. This is the “catch-all” provision. 
  2. Trust – A document which dictates how, when and under what circumstances people receive the income and principal of the trust
    1. Trustee – The person or institution who is named to oversee the distribution of trust income and assets
    2. Beneficiary – The individual or individuals named to receive the benefit of the Trust income and assets 
  3. Durable Power of Attorney (M.G.L. c. 190B, Section 5-501) – This is a document which names another person who, in addition to yourself, is allowed to handle your financial affairs (ie. Sign checks, make deposits or withdrawals, mortgage or sell your home and pay your bills
  4. Health Care Proxy (M.G.L. c. 201D) – This is a document which names another person to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make your own decision
  5. Primary Health Care Agent – The person named to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make your own decisions. This person is typically a spouse or other family member
  6. Declaration of Homestead (M.G.L. c. 188) – This is a document which protects your primary residence from the claims of creditors (besides mortgages and taxing authorities) up to the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000.00).

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