Why Everyone Needs To Keep Their Estate Plan Updated

As the world and its laws continue to evolve, everyone needs to keep their estate plans up to date. An estate plan is a set of documents, such as a will or trust, that dictate how assets will be distributed upon death or incapacity. An individual’s current legal and financial situation should be considered to create a comprehensive estate plan tailored specifically to their needs.

Ensure Your Wishes Are Respected

The primary reason to update an estate plan is to ensure that an individual’s wishes are respected upon death. For example, suppose an individual has recently acquired valuable property or has had changes in family structure (such as marriage or children). In that case, updating the documents that outline how assets should be distributed is important. If the documents are not updated, this could lead to disputes between family members and legal complications when probate occurs. Additionally, if laws change at the state or federal level, those changes need to be incorporated into the existing estate plan to remain valid and effective.

Ensure Your Loved Ones Are Protected From Tax Implications

Another reason for updating an estate plan is for future tax planning purposes. Without proper planning and asset allocation, taxes can significantly reduce the amount that beneficiaries receive after one’s death. Additionally, some states have transfer taxes on certain assets (such as real estate), which must be factored into one’s estate planning decisions. In addition, changes in Federal tax law may affect whether other taxes, such as capital gains tax, applies at the time of death or while transferring assets during life – thus providing additional incentive for individuals to review their plans regularly with their advisors and make necessary updates when necessary.

Ensure Your Medical Decisions Are Handled With Care

Estate planning also encompasses contingency plans in case of incapacity due to illness or injury – commonly referred to as disability planning. This means creating end-of-life documents such as Advance Health Care Directives which list specific instructions about medical treatments that should be administered if certain conditions arise – such as if a person suffers from dementia or a traumatic brain injury and can no longer make decisions on their behalf. This planning can provide peace of mind knowing that an individual’s wishes will be respected even if they cannot make decisions themselves due to illness or injury.

Ensure You Leave a Legacy For Your Loved Ones

Finally, updating an estate plan allows people to express gratitude for those who have helped them over the years – whether it be through providing advice on financial matters or being there simply by offering emotional support during difficult times – by including them in a legacy interview with our firm. Specific instructions can also be included in your plan regarding how charitable donations should be handled after death – enabling individuals who wish to donate part of their wealth to leave behind a lasting legacy that furthers causes they believe in long after they pass away.

Keep Your Estate Plan Up-To-Date

Finally, updating an estate plan allows people to express gratitude for those who have helped them over the years – whether it be through providing advice on financial matters or being there simply by offering emotional support during difficult times – by including them in a legacy interview with our firm. Specific instructions can also be included in your plan regarding how charitable donations should be handled after death – enabling individuals who wish to donate part of their wealth to leave behind a lasting legacy that furthers causes they believe in long after they pass away.

Obtaining A Power Of Attorney For Elderly Parents

Making important decisions for aging parents can be a challenging task, but power of attorney (POA) can provide peace of mind and clarity in times of need. POA enables individuals to make crucial decisions on behalf of their parents, such as managing their finances or making medical decisions, when they are unable to do so themselves due to age or illness.

While it may be difficult to approach this topic with your parents, having these discussions early on can help ensure that you follow their wishes if their health changes over time. Starting the conversation with empathy and understanding can make all the difference.

In this article, we’ll explore how to obtain power of attorney for elderly parents and provide helpful tips on how to approach these discussions with warmth and care. After all, our ultimate goal is to ensure that your aging parents receive the best possible care and support.

What’s a POA?

According to the American Bar Association, POAs are legal documents, which vary between states, that provide a person, or several individuals, with the power to perform actions on behalf of someone else. The individual with a POA is an agent, whereas the principal refers to the person who is having their affairs managed by other individuals. Agents can only perform actions outlined within the POA document. Moreover, if someone agrees to a POA, they can still make their own decisions, providing they can still do so coherently. This means the agent cannot make exclusive decisions on behalf of the principal.

POA Types

Below is more information regarding the different POA types:

General: For this POA, the agent can manage the principal’s affairs for a specific period, and the principal may revoke this at any point. These automatically finish if the principal becomes incapacitated and are common when an individual can still see to their affairs but prefers that someone else does this for them.

Durable: These POAs continue after the principal becomes incapacitated and are more common when someone cannot manage their affairs. They can conclude in many ways, including once the principal dies or if the agent completes the conditions within the POA document.

Springing: The terms in this POA do not take effect unless the principal becomes incapacitated. For this POA, the principal remains in control of their affairs until they lose capacity.

Medical: These POAs allow agents to make the principal’s medical decisions. They last until the principal is competent and might also expire after a certain period mentioned in the document.

Limited: These limit the agent’s ability to make decisions regarding certain tasks as outlined in the POA document, such as paying bills or selling a house. Limited POAs are usually temporary and end when the principal loses capacity.

Why and When to Consider a POA For Your Aging Parents

Here are the common reasons why individuals may consider getting a POA:

Finance Issues: POAs enable individuals to continue paying their parents’ bills and manage their finances when their parents struggle to fulfill these obligations.

Serious illness: Having a POA for an elderly parent can be helpful as it allows them to focus on getting better and reduces the stresses associated with managing their affairs.

Memory issues: Individuals commonly obtain a POA to manage their parents’ affairs if they develop dementia. It is helpful to note that it is necessary to obtain the POA before the parent loses their capacity.

Surgery: When an elderly parent is undergoing surgery, it might be a good idea to obtain a POA so individuals can make decisions on their parents’ behalf and manage their affairs until they have fully recovered.

Frequent travel: Some elderly parents like to travel frequently, so POAs can be useful here for ensuring their affairs remain in order while they are away.

How Do I Choose a POA For My Parents?

When considering a POA for your aging parents, there are several things to keep in mind. The most crucial factor is trust – you must choose someone you can rely on to make decisions in your parents’ best interests and follow their wishes.

While family members are often chosen for this role, it’s important to consider whether they are the best fit. If you think an objective outsider may be better suited to the task, such as a lawyer, accountant, or financial institution, this is also an option, although it may come with additional costs.

Before agreeing to be a POA for your parents, it’s essential to have a thorough discussion with them to understand their needs and preferences. Different types of POAs have different levels of responsibility, and it’s important to clarify what your parents expect from you. If your parents need help with medical decisions, for example, this will require more involvement than if they only need assistance with financial decisions.

Finally, it’s essential to understand the financial implications of becoming a POA. You will need to keep your finances separate from your parents’ and be prepared to justify any decisions you make to avoid legal issues.

Choosing a POA for your aging parents is a significant decision, and it’s essential to approach it with care and sensitivity. By having open and honest discussions and seeking objective advice, you can ensure that your parents receive the best possible care and support.

Contact Us, Your Local Personal Family Lawyer® To Learn More About Obtaining A Power Of Attorney For Your Elderly Parents

If you have elderly parents, it’s understandable that discussing power of attorney (POA) may be a sensitive topic. However, starting these discussions as early as possible can bring peace of mind and clarity in the future.

When approaching these conversations, it’s important to consider your parents’ health and well-being. Let them know that you’re there to support them and that you will only use the POA powers if it’s absolutely necessary. It’s a promise that can help reassure your parents that you have their best interests at heart.

Additionally, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney. They can provide objective advice and alleviate any concerns that your parents may have. We understand that this is a difficult process, but we’re here to help. Please feel free to contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you and your family.

Your Rights As The Parent Of A Young Adult – What You Need To Know When A Medical Crisis Hits

As a parent, you are quite accustomed to managing your children’s legal and medical affairs, as circumstances require. If your child requires urgent medical attention while away from you, a simple phone call authorizing care can do the trick. But what happens when those “children” turn 18, now adults in the eyes of the law, and need urgent medical attention far from home?

The simple fact is that the day your child turns 18, he or she becomes an adult and has the legal rights of an adult. This means that you lose your prior held rights to make medical and financial decisions for your child unless your child executes legal documents giving you those rights back. Without the proper legal documents, accessing medical information and even being informed about your adult child’s medical condition can be difficult and in some cases, impossible.

When sending kids off to college, it is crucial to consider the legal implications of an accident or medical emergency on your ability to stay informed and participate in important decision-making for your young adult child. Medical professionals are responsible for following the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which ensures medical privacy protection for all adults. Once your child turns 18, they are (from a legal perspective) no more attached to you than a stranger, making communication about medical issues is tricky if your child is incapacitated and not able to grant permission on their own.

In most states, these three legal documents can make all the difference when a medical crisis strikes and your young adult child is far from home. When utilized together, they can ensure a parent or trusted adult be kept in the loop about care and treatment when a child over the age of 18 experiences a medical event while they are away at college, traveling, or living far from home. As with most legal documents, the law varies from state to state, so be sure to seek out the counsel with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine which forms suit your situation best.


Essentially like a permission slip, this authorization allows your adult child to specify who is allowed access to their personal medical information. Specific information can be specifically withheld, such as drug use, sexual activity, and mental health issues so that additional privacy can be protected if desired.

Health Care Proxy

Designates an agent to make medical decisions for the young adult. This could be you, as the parent or another trusted adult. Each state has different laws governing medical power of attorney, requiring different forms. Be sure to check with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to be sure you are following the laws of your state and the state where your child resides.

Durable Financial Power Of Attorney

The milestones come quickly once children graduate high school and enter the big, wide world away from home. As your family navigates these significant rites of passage, consult us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine the steps necessary to ensure excellent communication and peace of mind when a medical emergency arises. Consider including your young adult children in the process. We’re here to help your family establish the legal and medical protections needed to live your desired lives. Contact us today to schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session for your family and get the right documents in place for your kids.

Keep the Government and Lawsuit Happy Opportunists Away From Your Children’s Inheritance

If you have a current estate plan, I’ll bet you plan to leave your assets to your children outright and unprotected by age 35, or maybe a little later. Go take a look at your estate plan, and see what it does right now. And, if you don’t have an estate plan, and you have kids or other people you care about, contact us today and let’s get that handled for you.

If you do have a plan and it distributes your assets outright to your kids — even in stages, over time, some at 25, then half of what’s left at 30, and balance at 35 (or something along those lines), you’ve overlooked d an incredibly valuable gift you can give your children (and the rest of your descendants for generations); a gift that only you can give them. And a gift that, once you’ve died and left them their inheritance outright, is lost and cannot be reclaimed.

Save your family Up to 40 cents on every dollar — currently — at each generation.

As of 2023, the current federal estate tax rate is 40% — meaning that every dollar passed on over the estate tax exemption rate is taxed at 40%. And it has been as high as 55%. On top of that, many states, including Massachusetts, have estate taxes as well.

This all adds up fast, and can decimate your family’s financial legacy, over time For every million dollars you leave outright to your children, if your children have a taxable estate when they die, could result in your grandchildren receiving only $550,000, with $450,000 going to the government … unnecessarily.

So, if you want to know that everything you’ve worked so hard to create will stay in your family for generations to come and not be lost to outsiders, leaving your assets to your children protected in a trust we call a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust, instead of outright is the way to go. And, it can be easily built in to your existing estate plan or trust, you just need to ask us to help you get a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust added to your plan.

But how will my kids get to use what I leave to them?

Here’s the best part about leaving your assets to your children in a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust. Not only is what you leave protected, but your children control what you leave them when you decide they are ready.

After your death, the assets you leave behind will pass to your children in a Trust that your child can control, as the Trustee of the Trust. You can decide when your child is mature enough to act as a Trustee.

As the Trustee of the Trust, your child decides how what you’ve left is invested and what to do with the Trust assets. And your child will even be able to determine the amount of control vs. the amount of asset protection he or she wants based on his or her specific circumstances.

Is this still important if I don’t have much money?

If you only leave your children a small amount of money, this is still incredibly valuable for protection, if you are leaving assets that will be invested and grown, and not just spent right away on consumables. Some might say it’s even more important because your family has less to lose to taxes, lawsuits, and divorce. And the impact of such losses is much greater.

A mere $10,000 protected now can become millions for the people you love for generations to come.

Imagine that you leave just $10,000 to your child in a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust, and instead of spending that $10,000 or losing it in a divorce, they invest that $10,000 in creating their own business inside their trust, and then grow that business into a million dollar or multi-million dollar venture because of how you chose to leave your child that $10,000 gift … and it’s fully protected for your child’s lifetime.

Secure the future of your family today by speaking to us, Personal Family Lawyer®. We review estate plans and inherited funds with you, ensuring that all legalities are in place so generations can enjoy the benefits according to your wishes. Don’t wait, get peace of mind now – contact us today to get started.

5 Reasons Why Cheap Estate Plans Leave Messes

In most cases, from the most sophisticated business people with the highest net worth to those just starting in the workforce and on their path to adulthood, you very likely do not know how to evaluate estimates when shopping for an estate plan.

Shopping for an estate plan based on getting the lowest cost plan possible is often the fastest path to leaving your family with an empty set of documents (maybe in a beautiful binder, but not worth the paper they are written on) that won’t work for your family when they need it.

Unfortunately, we see the negative effects of cheap estate planning when family members come to us during a time of grief with that fancy binder that sat on the shelf for years sending out signals of false security, full of out-of-date estate planning documents, and find themselves stuck in what could have been an avoidable court process, or even conflict when that’s exactly what their loved one thought they had paid someone to handle for them.

Here Are 5 Reasons Why Shopping For The Cheapest Estate Plan Is Likely To Leave You With A Plan That Won’t Work For Your Family… And Leave Them With A Big Mess Instead

01 I

The least expensive plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on once you’ve left the attorney’s office — your life changes, the law changes, and your assets change over time; your plan needs to keep up with those changes.

And the truth is a lawyer can’t afford to provide anything more than documents that won’t get updated when you only pay a few hundred dollars for a plan. The business model doesn’t work for the lawyer and won’t work for you.

An attorney who has built a practice specifically to serve your family in their best interests cannot make a living selling $399 (or even $1,500 or $2,000) Wills, Trusts, or estate plans. Only insurance and financial professionals getting paid commissions to sell your family’s annuities and life insurance products can make a living selling cheap documents. Buyer beware!

02 I

“Estate planning” is often sold by financial professionals who want to get their hands on your “assets under management,” not necessarily prioritizing doing right by your family or keeping the people you love out of court or conflict. They may not even know how to keep your family out of court or conflict.

When your estate plan has been sold to you by an investment advisor as part of your financial advisory and retirement support services, their focus isn’t on understanding the relational and legal dynamics of families, which can flare up after the death of a loved one. As “relational lawyers,” we’ve got specific expertise and training in pre-emptively identifying potential for family conflict and heading it off before it becomes an expensive problem. We’ve seen it all when it comes to families getting stuck in court, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you design a plan that prevents your family from court and conflict.

03 I

Forms and documents won’t be there for your family when you can’t be — you want to leave your loved one’s relationship with a trusted advisor with whom you have built a relationship during your lifetime and who has met them and they already Trust.

Working with a lawyer who focuses on “the best documents” at the “lowest price” or doesn’t charge enough for their services cannot provide more than form documents. These days, especially with the rise of AI, template form documents are free- for anyone to use, which makes it difficult to know how those documents are handled when it comes to protecting the people you love.

Shopping around for the least expensive plan may get you the cheapest documents, but those documents won’t be there to guide the people you love when they need someone to turn to in a crisis or grief. We will be.

04 I

You get what you pay for. It’s your family that will pay the price. Traditional law firms usually use generic forms and documents. These are called “Trust mills” and are a firm that drafts plans but doesn’t ensure assets are owned correctly or stay up to date over time. You might think that’s malpractice, but it’s not. It’s common practice, leaving your family at risk if and when something happens to you!

05 I

An estate plan isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing, it needs to stay updated with changes in your life, the law, and your assets.

A Game Changing Realization

There’s currently more than $58 billion in unclaimed property held in departments of unclaimed property across the United States. Yep, that is billion with a B. Assets often land there when someone dies or becomes incapacitated, and their family loses track of it because it wasn’t tracked well during life. And that’s just one way your family loses out if you’ve shopped around for the cheapest estate plan rather than having a plan that works for the people you love.

Is Something Better Than Nothing?

Sometimes, having something in place is better than nothing, but this is not one of those cases. In this case, having a “something” plan leaves your family holding the expensive, or even empty bag, when it’s too late for them and you to do anything about it. It’s risky business to leave your loved one’s with a set of documents you aren’t sure are going to work, and our guess is that you love your people too much for that.

If you already have an estate plan in place that you may have bought based on price, and are concerned you may have gotten a set of documents that won’t serve your family when they need it most, call us and ask about our 50-point assessment. We can help you save some money by giving it to do yourself, or you can pay us for a plan review to make sure your loved one’s won’t get stuck with an expensive and painful and unnecessary court process or loss of assets, when it’s too late.

Contact us at 978-745-5551 to schedule OR email [email protected] to get on our calendar. We begin our planning process with a Family Wealth Planning Planning Session, during which you’ll not only become more financially organized than ever before, you’ll finally be able to make informed, educated choices about the right plan for your family based on your unique family dynamics and your assets, instead of just shopping around for an estate plan based on price.

Will Your Estate Plan Work When Your Family Needs It?

Like most people, you likely think estate planning is just one more task to check off your life’s endless “to-do” list.

You can shop around and find a lawyer to create planning documents for you or create your own DIY plan using online documents. Then, you’ll put those documents into a drawer, mentally check estate planning off your to-do list, and forget about them.

The problem is, estate planning is more than just a one-and-done type of deal.

It will be worthless if your plan is not regularly updated when your assets, family situation, and laws change. Failing to update your plan can create problems that can leave your family worse off than if you’ve never created a plan.

The following story illustrates the consequences of not updating your plan, which happened to the founder and CEO of New Law Business Model, Ali Katz. Indeed, this experience was one of the leading catalysts for her to create the new, family-centered model of estate planning we use with all of our clients.

A Game Changing Realization

When Ali was in law school, her father-in-law died. He’d done his estate planning—or at least thought he had. He paid a Florida law firm roughly $3,000 to prepare an estate plan for him, so his family wouldn’t be stuck with the hassles and expense of probate court or drawn into needless conflict with his ex-wife.

And yet, after his death, that’s exactly what did happen. His family was forced to go to court to claim assets that were supposed to pass directly to them. And on top of that, they had to deal with his ex-wife and her attorneys.

Ali couldn’t understand it. If her father-in-law paid $3,000 for an estate plan, why were his loved ones dealing with the court and his ex-wife? His planning documents were not updated, and his assets were not even correctly titled.

Ali’s father-in-law created a Trust so that his assets would pass directly to his family when he died, and they wouldn’t have to endure probate. But some of his assets had never been transferred into the name of his Trust from the beginning. And since there was no updated inventory of his assets, there was no way for his family to even confirm everything he had when he died. To this day, one of his accounts is still stuck in the Florida Department of Unclaimed Property.

Ali thought for sure this must be malpractice. But after working for one of the best law firms in the country and interviewing other top estate-planning lawyers across the country, she confirmed what happened to her father-in-law wasn’t malpractice at all. It was common practice.

This inspired Ali to take action. When she started her own law firm, she did so with the intention and commitment that she would ensure her clients’ plans would work when their families needed it and create a service model built around that mission.

Will Your Plan Work When Your Family Needs It?

We hear similar stories from our clients all the time. In fact, outside of not creating any plan, one of the most common planning mistakes we encounter is when we get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with a plan that no longer works. Yet by that point, it’s too late, and the loved ones left behind are forced to deal with the aftermath.

We recommend you review your plan annually to ensure it’s up to date and immediately amend it following events like divorce, deaths, births, and inheritances. This is so important we’ve created proprietary systems designed to ensure these updates are made for all of our clients. You don’t need to worry about whether you’ve overlooked anything as your family, the law, and your assets change over time.

Furthermore, because your plan is designed to protect and provide for your loved ones in the event of your death or incapacity, we aren’t just here to serve you—we’re here to serve your entire family. We take the time to get to know your family members and include them in the planning process so everyone affected by your plan is well aware of your latest planning strategies and why you made the choices you did.

Unfortunately, many estate planning firms only engage with a part of the family when creating estate plans, leaving the spouse and other loved ones primarily out of the loop. The planning process works best when your loved ones are educated and engaged. We can even facilitate regular family meetings to keep everyone up-to-date.

Built-In Systems To Keep Your Plan Current

Our legal services are designed to make estate planning as streamlined and worry-free as possible for you and your family. Unlike the lawyers who worked with Ali’s father-in-law, we don’t just create legal documents and put the onus on you to ensure they stay updated and function as intended—we take care of that on our end.

For example, our built-in systems and processes would’ve prevented two of the biggest mistakes made by the lawyers who created her father-in-law’s plan. These mistakes include: 1) not keeping his assets properly inventoried and 2) not correctly titling assets held by his Trust.

Maintaining a regularly updated inventory of all your assets is one of the most vital parts of keeping your plan current. We’ll not only help you create a comprehensive asset inventory, we’ll make sure the list stays consistently updated throughout your lifetime.

Start creating an inventory of everything you own to ensure your loved ones know what you have, where it is, and how to access it if something happens to you. From there, meet with us to incorporate your inventory into a comprehensive set of planning strategies that we’ll keep updated throughout your lifetime.

To properly title assets held by a Trust, it’s not enough to list the assets you want to cover when you create a Trust. You have to transfer the legal title of certain assets—real estate, bank accounts, securities, brokerage accounts—to the Trust, known as “funding” the Trust, for them to be appropriately disbursed.

While most lawyers will create a Trust for you, only some will ensure your assets are properly funded. We’ll not only make sure your assets are properly titled when you initially create your Trust, we’ll also ensure that any new assets you acquire throughout your life are inventoried and properly funded to your Trust. This will keep your assets from being lost and prevent your family from being inadvertently forced into court because your plan was never fully completed.

For The Love Of Your Family

With us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, our planning services go far beyond simply creating documents and then never seeing you again. We’ll develop a relationship with your family that lasts not only for your lifetime but for the lifetime of your children and their children if that’s your wish.

We’ll support you in not only creating a plan that keeps your family out of court and out of conflict in the event of your death or incapacity, but we’ll also ensure your plan is regularly updated to make sure that it works and is there for your family when you cannot be. Contact us today to get started.

Before You Agree To Be A Trustee, Read This!

Being asked by a loved one to serve as Trustee for their Trust upon their death can be quite an honor, but it’s also a significant responsibility—and the role is not for everyone. Indeed, serving as a Trustee entails a broad array of duties, and you are both ethically and legally required to execute those duties or face potential liability.

Before you say yes, be sure you understand what it means to be a Trustee.

In the end, your responsibility as a Trustee will vary greatly depending on the size of the estate, the type of assets covered by the Trust, the type of Trust, how many beneficiaries there are, and the document’s terms. In light of this, you should carefully review the specifics of the Trust you would be managing before deciding to serve.

And remember, you don’t have to take the job.

Yet, depending on who nominated you, declining to serve may not be an easy or practical option. On the other hand, you might enjoy the opportunity to serve so long as you understand what’s expected.

To that end, this article offers a brief overview of what serving as a Trustee typically entails. If you are asked to serve as Trustee, feel free to contact us to support you in evaluating whether you can effectively carry out all the duties or if you should politely decline.

A Trustee’s Primary Responsibilities

Although every Trust is different, serving as a Trustee comes with a few core requirements: managing assets held in the name of the Trust, accounting for those assets, and following the terms of the Trust regarding distributions of income and/or principal to the beneficiaries of the Trust.

Remember, a Trust is simply an agreement between the grantor and the distribution of assets. The Trust agreement directs distribution to a Trustee to hold and manage the assets “inside the Trust” for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

As a Trustee, you will be acting as a “fiduciary,” meaning that you must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the Trust. And if you fail to abide by your duties as a fiduciary, you can face legal liability. For this reason, if you are named as Trustee, you should hire us to review the Trust Agreement and provide an analysis of the specific duties and responsibilities required of you before you agree to serve.

Regardless of the terms of the Trust or the assets it holds or will hold, some of your key responsibilities as Trustee include the following:

-Identifying and gathering the Trust assets

-Determining what the Trust’s terms require in terms of management and distribution of assets

-Hiring and overseeing an accounting firm to file income and estate taxes for the Trust

-Communicating regularly with beneficiaries

-Being scrupulously honest, highly organized, and keeping detailed records of all transactions

-Closing the Trust when the Trust terms specify

No Experience Necessary

It’s important to point out that being a Trustee does NOT require you to be an expert in the law, finance, taxes, or any other field related to Trust administration. Trustees are not only allowed to seek outside support from professionals in these areas, but they’re also highly encouraged to do so, and the Trust estate will pay for you to hire these professionals.

So even though serving as a Trustee may seem daunting, you won’t have to handle the job alone. And you are also able to be paid to serve as a Trustee of a Trust.

That said, many Trustees, particularly close family members, often choose to forgo any payment beyond what’s required to cover the Trust expenses, if that’s possible. But how you are compensated will depend on your personal circumstances, your relationship with the Trust’s creator and beneficiaries, and the nature of the assets in the Trust.

We Can Help

Because serving as a Trustee involves such serious responsibility, you should meet with us, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, to help decide whether to accept the role. We can offer you a clear, unbiased assessment of what’s required of you based on the Trust’s terms, assets, and beneficiaries.

And if you choose to serve, it’s even more critical to have an experienced lawyer in estate planning to assist you with the Trust’s administration. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can guide you step-by-step throughout the entire process, ensuring you properly fulfill all of the Trust creator’s wishes without exposing the beneficiaries—or yourself—to any unnecessary risks. Contact us today to learn more.

4 Common Mistakes On Life Insurance Beneficiary Designations

Investing in life insurance is a foundational part of estate planning, and when done right it’s a primary way to say “I love you” to your loved ones after you are gone. However, when naming your policy’s beneficiaries, several mistakes can lead to potentially dire consequences for the people you’re investing to protect and support.

The following four mistakes are among the most common we see clients make when selecting life insurance beneficiaries. If you’ve made any of these errors, contact us immediately, so we can support you to change your beneficiary designations on your policy and ensure the proceeds provide the maximum benefit for those you love most.

01 – Failing To Name A Beneficiary

Although it would seem common sense, whether intentional or not, far too many people fail to name any beneficiary on their life insurance policies or inadvertently name their “estate” as beneficiary. Both of these errors will mean your insurance proceeds must go through the court process known as probate.

During probate, a judge will determine who gets your insurance death benefits. This process can tie the benefits up in court for months or even years, depending on who the beneficiaries of your estate are under the law. Moreover, probate opens up the proceeds to creditors, which can seriously deplete—or even totally wipe out—the funds.

To keep your insurance proceeds out of court , make certain you designate—at the very least— one primary adult beneficiary. In case your primary beneficiary dies before you, you should also name a contingent (alternate) beneficiary. Name more than one contingent beneficiary for maximum protection in case your primary and secondary choices die before you.

Ideally, we often recommend that the primary beneficiary of your life insurance is the Trustee of a well-considered and thoughtful Trust Agreement to provide maximum benefit and protection for your heirs.

02 – Forgetting To Update Beneficiaries

While failing to name any beneficiary is a huge mistake, not keeping your beneficiary designations up to date can be even worse. This is particularly true if you are in a second (or more) marriage and fail to remove an ex-spouse as beneficiary, which can leave your current spouse with nothing when you die.

To prevent this, you should review your beneficiary designations annually as part of an overall review of your estate plan and immediately update your beneficiaries upon events like divorce, deaths, and births. When you are our client, we have built-in systems to ensure your beneficiary designations (along with all other documents and decisions in your plan) are regularly reviewed and updated.

03 – Naming A Minor (Or Their Guardian) As Beneficiary

You are technically permitted to name a minor child as a beneficiary of your life insurance , but it’s never a good idea. Minor children cannot receive insurance benefits until they reach the age of maturity—which can be as old as 21 in some states. In the event a minor is listed as beneficiary, the proceeds of your insurance will be distributed to a court-appointed custodian, who will manage the funds (often for a not insignificant fee) until the child reaches the age of maturity. At that point, all benefits are distributed to the beneficiary outright and unprotected.

This is true even if the minor has a living parent. A child’s living parent could petition to the court to be appointed custodian. Still, there is no guarantee that a parent would be appointed custodian, especially if the parent cannot qualify or pay for a bond. In many cases, a court could deem a parent unsuitable (if they have poor credit, for example) and instead appoint a paid fiduciary to control the funds.

Rather than naming a minor as a beneficiary, you may think to name the person you have chosen as guardian of your child. But that’s not the right answer either. In that case, all insurance would pay outright to the named guardian and could be used in any way they choose, or even be at risk of being taken in a divorce or by a judgment creditor of the guardian.

Instead, the right answer is to set up a trust to receive the insurance proceeds and name a trustee to hold and distribute the funds to a minor child you would want to benefit from your insurance proceeds, when and how you determine, or even hold them protected for your beneficiary to control but safe from divorce and creditors if you choose.

04 – Naming An Individual With Special Needs As Beneficiary

Although a loved one with special needs is likely one of the first people you’d consider naming as beneficiary of your life insurance policy, doing so can have tragic consequences. Leaving insurance directly to someone with special needs could disqualify that individual from receiving much-needed government benefits.

Rather than naming someone with special needs as a beneficiary, you should create a “special needs trust” to receive the insurance proceeds. This way, the money won’t go directly to the beneficiary upon your death. Still, it would be managed by the trustee you name and dispersed according to the trust’s terms without affecting benefit eligibility.

The rules governing special needs trusts are complicated and vary greatly from state to state, so if you have a child with special needs, meet with us today to discuss your options. In the end, special needs planning involves much more than just life insurance—it’s about providing a lifetime of care and protection.

Eliminate Future Problems Now

While naming life insurance beneficiaries might seem simple, if you’re not careful, you can create major problems for the loved ones you’re doing your best to benefit. Meet with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® today to ensure you’ve done everything properly.

We can also support you in planning tools like trusts—special needs or otherwise—to ensure your insurance proceeds provide the maximum benefit for your beneficiaries without negatively affecting them. Schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session to get started.

Revocable or Irrevocable: Which Trust Is Right For You?

You’ve probably heard you need a trust to keep your family out of court and maybe out of conflict in the event of your death or incapacity. And, if you haven’t, you are hearing it now. If you own any “probatable” assets in your name at the time of your incapacity or death, your family must go to court to access them. If you aren’t sure if your assets are “probatable” contact us to discuss.

But you may need clarification about whether you need a revocable living or irrevocable trust. More and more, we are seeing people come our way asking for a irrevocable trust, and so this article is designed to help you learn the difference and then get into an “eyes wide open” conversation about the right kind of trust for you and your loved ones.

What Is A Trust?

A trust is an agreement between the grantor of the trust (that’s you) with a trustee (someone named by you) to hold title to assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries (whoever you name). When we break it down in its simplest form, it’s that straightforward. It’s an agreement.

Now, the terms of that “agreement,” called a “trust agreement,” can vary significantly, and that’s where we come in as we’ll work with you to clarify the terms that you want between yourself and the trustee for the benefit of the people you name as beneficiaries.

With a revocable living trust (RLT), during your lifetime, you will be the “grantor,” the “trustee,” and the “beneficiary.” So, for all intents and purposes under the law, nothing really happens when you retitle your assets in the name of your RLT, so long as you are living and have the capacity (meaning you can make decisions for yourself).

With an RLT, once you become incapacitated (which is determined as per the instructions in the trust document) or in the event of your death, the trust becomes irrevocable, and the person or persons you’ve named as successor trustee steps in to control the assets held in the name of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries named in the trust. If you are still living but incapacitated, you would be the beneficiary still. If you have died, then your named heirs would be the beneficiaries. At that point, the trust may distribute outright to your beneficiaries or be held in continuing trust — protected from creditors, future divorces, future lawsuits, and even estate taxes (if the trust is drafted properly) — if your trust terms provide for continuing protection.

You could indicate in the trust agreement that you want your beneficiaries to “control the trust” but that you want the trustee to continue to hold title to the assets, thereby protecting the assets, while giving the beneficiaries nearly full control and use of the assets. This is a bit tricky, so don’t try it at home without support. But, if you want to provide this kind of benefit and protection to the people you love, be sure to talk with us about building a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust into your plan. It’s highly worth it if you’ll pass on anything more than what your children will immediately spend upon your death.

We support you in making these decisions in our Family Wealth Planning Session™ process before ever drafting a single legal document for you. But before we talk about that, let’s clarify what a irrevocable trust is and where it might fit into your plan.

A irrevocable trust is the same as a revocable trust — an agreement between a grantor and a trustee to hold the property for a beneficiary. Still, if the trust agreement is irrevocable, or once it becomes irrevocable, it cannot be changed. There are some exceptions to this, but for the most part, that is the case. If you put your assets into a irrevocable trust, you cannot then take them out of the trust and return them to yourself because the gift to the trustee to hold the assets for the beneficiary is irrevocable.

A irrevocable trust can remove assets from your name and protect them from future lawsuits or future growth in your estate, which removes them from your estate for estate tax purposes. We will recommend irrevocable trusts when we are preparing your estate for the potentiality that you may need long-term nursing care that you would like covered by MassHealth without decimating your family’s inheritance, or on the other end of the spectrum, if you have an estate that could be subject to the estate tax or that could be at significant risk of lawsuits.

When you meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session™, we’ll look at your assets, family dynamics, personal desires, and how the law will apply to all of it. Then, together, we will decide on the right plan for you — whether to include a trust or not, whether that trust should be revocable or not, and if it is revocable, when it should be irrevocable, and how long it should last for the people you love.

Never choose a type of trust without working with a lawyer who understands you, your family, your assets, and your goals. Never use a life insurance professional or financial advisor to choose the type of trust or draft your trust for you. Too many variables could leave your family with a big mess. We’ll guide you to make the right decisions during life and be there for your family when you can’t be. And we’ll integrate the proper insurance, financial, and tax professionals into your planning at the right time to ensure everything we create works for you and the people you love.

When you meet with us, your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will learn about you, your family dynamics, your assets and your risks and liabilities, needs and desires to support you in the empowering decision-making process of creating an estate plan that works for you and the people you love. Contact us today to get started.

Why Every Adult Needs A Living Will

When it comes to estate planning and wills, you have a variety of options for legal documents. The most common of these options is a “last will and testament,” which is also known simply as a “will.” But you may have also heard people talk about a “living will” and wonder what that is, and whether you need a living will in addition to a regular last will and testament.

Both terms describe important legal documents used in estate planning, but their purpose and function differ significantly. In this article, we will review some of the most critical things you need to know about living wills and why having a living will is essential to every adult’s estate plan. And it may be that a living will is even more important than a last will and testament.

What Is A Living Will?

A living will, also called an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that tells your loved ones and doctors how you would want your medical care handled if you become incapacitated and cannot make such decisions yourself, particularly at the end of life. Specifically, a living will outlines the procedures, medications, and treatments you would want and would not want to prolong your life if you cannot make such decisions yourself.

For example, within the terms of your living will, you can articulate certain decisions, such as if and when you would want life support removed should you ever require it and whether you would want hydration and nutrition supplied to prolong your life.

Beyond instructions about your medical care, a living will can even describe what type of food you want and who can visit you in the hospital. These are critical considerations for your well-being at a time of greatest need for you. And if you haven’t provided any specific instructions, decisions will be made on your behalf that you likely will not want.

Living Will vs. Last Will And Testament

Upon death, a last will and testament ensure your assets are distributed as you choose. Note that your last will only deals with your assets and only operates upon your death. In contrast, a living will is about you, not your assets. And it operates in the event of your incapacity, not your death.

In other words, a “last” will tells others what you want to happen to your wealth and property after you die, while a “living” will tells others how you want your medical treatment managed while you are still alive. And that’s really important for you and your care!

Living Will vs. Medical Power of Attorney

Medical power of attorney is the part of an advance healthcare directive that allows you to name a person, known as your “agent,” to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated and unable to make those decisions yourself.

Simply put, medical power of attorney names those who can make medical decisions in the event of your incapacity, while a living will explains how you would want your medical care handled during your incapacity.

Why Having A Living Will Is So Important

A living will is a vital part of every adult’s estate plan, as it can ensure your medical treatment is handled exactly the way you want if you cannot communicate your needs and wishes. Additionally, a living will can prevent your family from undergoing needless trauma and conflict during an already trying time.

Without a living will, your family would have to guess what treatments you might want, and your loved ones are likely to experience stress and guilt over the decisions they make on your behalf. In worst cases, your family members could even end up battling one another in court over who should manage your medical care and how.

Should You Rely On A Living Will Created Online?

While there is a wide selection of living wills, medical power of attorney, and other advance directive documents online, you likely want more guidance and peace of mind than is available through an online service to support you to address such critical decisions adequately. Regarding your medical treatment and end-of-life care, you have unique needs and wishes that cannot be anticipated or adequately addressed by generic documents or without the counseling and guidance we can provide through your decision-making process.

To ensure your directives are tailored to suit your unique situation, work with experienced estate planning professionals like us, your local Personal Family Lawyer® to support you to create and/or review your living will.