The Components of an Estate Plan in Massachusetts
Helping clients with affordable wills and estate plans in the Greater Boston area, including Burlington, Cambridge, Lexington, and Arlington
The following are the key components to an estate plan in Massachusetts:
- Will. A will is used to specify the distribution of all assets owned by a person that are not otherwise subject to other distribution mechanisms.
- For example, because property held in a trust is not “owned” by a person, the distribution of such property is not controlled by a will. Similarly, other assets that may be owned by a person – such as those held as joint tenants with right of survivorship, insurance proceeds, and assets in pay-on-death accounts – are transferred in accordance with applicable law, rather than by will.
- If a person dies intestate (without a will), state law determines the distribution of assets.
- Trust. Trusts are separate legal vehicles that hold assets which are governed by the terms of the trust. Trusts can be beneficial to ensure the distribution of assets, and, for high net worth individuals and couples, to help minimize tax burden.
- Because the federal exemption from the estate tax now exceeds $5 million for individuals, trusts are no longer needed by many people solely for federal tax purposes; however, they may be beneficial for Massachusetts tax purposes as the state estate tax exemption is much less.Trusts may additionally be helpful in some cases, such as if a parent might die before a child is an adult, and the parent may want to control the distribution of funds to the child prior to such time.
- Living Will (also called an “Advance Directive”). Living wills provide instruction to healthcare providers for end-of-life treatment if an individual is unable to make his or her wishes known. Living wills can help remove the burden from family members for such decisions.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney. A healthcare power of attorney provides another person (the “attorney-in-fact”) with the legal authority to act on behalf of the person executing the healthcare power of attorney if such person becomes unable to communicate his or her wishes as the result of a medical event or disease. Such authority is only effective while the person is unable to communicate his or her wishes, and the authority granted is only as specified in the power of attorney.
- If a healthcare power of attorney is not in place, the family of a person incapacitated may need to go to court to petition for guardianship over such person, which can be expensive, and can result in a court overseeing what should otherwise be private affairs.
How I Help
As an estate planning attorney, I can help you create a plan that will follow your wishes and meet your objectives, during your life and after death.
We are happy to meet with you and learn about your objectives. Please call our office to get started.