Creating an estate plan is important if you are a Massachusetts adult, because if you do not have one, the state decides how your assets are distributed. With an estate plan, you can feel more confident that your wishes will be carried out.
Planning for incapacity
There are basically two separate elements to estate planning. One is about making plans in case you are incapacitated, and the other is about what happens to your assets after your death. For the former, you may want a power of attorney that gives someone the ability to make financial decisions for you if you cannot. You may also want to appoint someone to make health care decisions on your behalf. This document is sometimes called a health care power of attorney or a health care proxy. You may also want to create a living will that specifies your wishes for end-of-life care.
Wills, trusts and other documents
A will is the document many people think of first when they consider making an estate plan. A will can appoint someone as the guardian of your minor children, name an executor and specify how you want your assets distributed. A will is a public document that must pass through probate, so some people prefer to use a trust instead, which can pass assets directly to beneficiaries. Trusts can be used in many other ways as well, including protecting assets from creditors, donating to charity and reducing tax burdens. Another common document is a beneficiary designation, often used with retirement accounts and life insurance policies.
Estate planning can be simple or complex depending on your own situation. Even if you do not have children or many assets, you probably have items you would like to pass on to certain people, and an estate plan can help you do that.