estate-planningIt is a common misconception that only people with substantial assets need a Will. For instance, regardless of your assets, if you have minor children you will need a Will to designate your choice as to who will raise the children if you and your spouse pass away. Without a Will, the Court will choose a guardian and there may be significant disagreement among your relatives as to who that should be.

A Will

A Will designates exactly how you want your assets to be distributed. If you die without a will, the state law and the courts will designate how your assets are to be distributed and who will be the guardian of your minor children. These are decisions that most people would prefer to make themselves. That is why proper estate planning is essential for everyone.

When choosing an Executor and Guardian, it is important to also choose an alternative to each in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to fulfill the position. To avoid any unwillingness, it is important discuss your choices of Executor, Trustee and Guardian with the individuals you choose to designate. Make sure they are comfortable and willing to serve.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney is essential so that your financial affairs do not go unattended if you are ill or incapacitated for any reason. Without a valid Durable Power of Attorney, no one else is automatically authorized to handle your finances. Typically, your financial affairs would have to be managed by a guardian appointed by the probate court, a much more expensive and complex procedure than getting a durable power of attorney drafted before you become incapacitated.

A power of attorney can give your "agent" whatever degree of power you authorize: either specific, limited powers or broad powers. A durable power of attorney remains in effect even if you ("the principle") become incompetent and remains valid even during a prolonged debilitating illness or mental impairment.

Health Care Proxy

In some states it is called a "living will" but in Massachusetts, statute has created the "Health Care Proxy" for the same purpose. It is seperate from the durable power of attorney.

This document lets you appoint a trusted relative or friend to make decisions about your medical care in the event that you are unable to make or communicate them yourself. It is particularly important to discuss you health care wishes with the person you designate to make those decisions. Putting those specific wishes in writing is also helpful in ensuring your wishes are properly carried out.


Filing a Declaration of Homestead in Massachusetts gives you protection against certain creditors for up to $500,000 in the equity in your home.


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