Most estate planning attorneys would say that an estate plan is a written document outlining how a person’s assets will be handled and distributed upon their passing. At TEAM Estate Planning, the estate planning practice of Gorton Law LLC, we set ourselves apart with our philosophy that the estate plan is not just the written documents, but also your family’s mindset, plans, hopes, and values. These plans, hopes, and values combine with legal documents that goes beyond an “estate plan” to become your “estate reality.”
Almost every person has an estate of some kind, and it may include bank accounts, property, investments, vehicles, and other personal property, as well as any debts, such as outstanding bills. The role of an attorney in these cases is to help you decide what will happen to these assets when you die.
Even if you do not have many assets, creating an estate plan can help you solidify your wishes regarding your care should you become incapacitated and your choice to appoint a power of attorney (POA) to act on your behalf under your terms.
While it is not a legal requirement to have an estate plan in place, having one can help honor your wishes and protect your family’s financial future. Our Boston estate planning lawyers can assist you in crafting a comprehensive estate plan and allow you to avoid any disputes regarding the future division of your assets.
There are many components to consider when creating a comprehensive estate plan. Estate planning needs evolve as people progress through their lives and experience significant life changes such as a marriage, having children, a divorce, the death of a loved one, the birth of a grandchild, inheriting money, or watching good old-fashioned hard work lead to growing family wealth.
A will is a written document, signed and executed with special legal formality, meant to provide express instructions regarding the creator’s assets and how they will be distributed in the future. It can name the executor of the will and the beneficiaries and appoint a legal guardian for any minor children. It can be as simple or as complex the creator wishes.
A trust is a written contract that instructs someone called a “trustee” how to manage certain assets that are owned by the trust. This distribution of legal and equitable ownership of an asset to the trustee creates a “fiduciary relationship” between the creator of the trust and the trustee. It may help protect the asset from third-party liability and may be an effective way to give your assets away at death without the formal process of going to court and probate. A trust can lay out the conditions under which beneficiaries receive the trust’s assets, and estate plans usually include both a will and trusts.
A power of attorney (POA) is a written document that allows the principal individual to authorize a trusted third party to serve as the decision-maker on their behalf. The POA can hold legal authority over important matters such as the principal’s business and financial assets.
In estate planning, we use a “durable power of attorney.” The durable option gives the POA the authority to continue to serve as the decision-maker for the principal individual even if they become mentally incapacitated and unable to make sound decisions about their own financial and business matters in the future. A durable power of attorney is an important way to make sure you are protected while you are still alive, but unable to make decisions. A Boston estate planning attorney could further explain how this kind of POA protects you while you are alive.
A health care proxy comes into effect when the creator becomes incapacitated. The written document appoints an individual to have the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot make those decisions independently.
A living will is another written document that applies in the event of mental incapacity. When medical decisions must be made on behalf of the incapacitated creator, a living will that is prepared in advance can provide essential details regarding the creator’s wishes. These may include the creator’s express intentions regarding life support, tube feeding, and other end-of-life decisions. The living will give your medical proxy a clear understanding about what decisions you would want them to make for you.
Understanding the importance of estate planning is the first step in taking charge of your future and the future of your loved ones, but navigating the complexities of estate planning can be intense. A trusted Boston estate planning lawyer could help you make the best choices for your unique situation. Call today to learn more.