Hingham Estate Planning Lawyer for Wills & Trusts

It is easy to put off estate planning until it is too late; however, failing to have a solid asset distribution strategy in place can have many unintended effects, such as (but not limited to):

  • Loved ones and friends may be left with nothing;
  • Your assets may not be distributed in accordance with your wishes,
  • Family conflicts and disagreements can easily arise;
  • You could miss out on valuable tax minimization benefits;
  • Certain assets may be exposed to creditor claims; and
  • Loved ones may be tasked with making difficult end-of-life decisions that could have been prearranged.

If you do not have an estate plan or have not updated your estate planning documents in the last year, we urge you to call our office today to schedule a free consultation to learn about our affordable estate planning options.

As an estate planning lawyer serving Hingham and the surrounding towns, counties, and communities, I can develop with you a comprehensive estate plan based upon your specific objectives and needs. .

In addition to serving Hingham, I also serve clients in Braintree, Cohasset, Randolph, Brockton, and throughout Norfolk and the surrounding counties.

What Happens If I Pass Away Without a Will in Massachusetts?

If an individual passes without a will, Massachusetts state law determines how their assets will be distributed, even if such distribution conflicts with their wishes. This can be especially problematic if a person would like to leave assets to a non-familial loved one or provide for a current spouse and children from a previous marriage or relationship. If any of these situations apply, a Hingham estate planning attorney can be beneficial. I can help you craft an estate plan that will protect and further your specific distribution wishes.

What Assets Are Not Distributed by a Will in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, there are certain types of assets that are not distributed under the provisions of your will, including:

  • Assets held in a trust
  • Proceeds from life insurance policies payable to a named beneficiary
  • Property owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship
  • Assets in financial accounts, such as retirement accounts, in which a beneficiary is named
  • “Pay on death” and certain other types of trust accounts.

If you do not have an estate plan, or if you are in need of updating a previous estate plan to take into account recent life changes or other circumstances, I invite you to call our office to schedule a free consultation to discuss your long-term goals and objectives.

What Are the Components of an Estate Plan?

Estate plans are usually comprised of the following documents:

  • Will.  A will may serve many purposes.  Among them, a will may name and provide for the individuals and/or charities who will receive a decedent’s assets, helping to avoid family disputes and unnecessary litigation.  It may also nominate an individual to serve as the legal representative of the estate, and nominate a guardian and conservator for you, if needed.  A will may also nominate a guardian for minor children, or adult disabled children.  Importantly, authorization for the estate to act without court approval, such as the power to sell real estate, may also be provided by a will.
  • Trusts.  Trusts can be created while an individual is living and can be made either revocable or irrevocable.  A trust allows a trustee to hold and manage property and assets on behalf of named beneficiaries and to distribute such assets as specified in a written trust agreement.  Trusts are not needed in all situations, but where they are applicable, they often serve as the center piece of an overall estate plan.  Once I learn about the nature of your estate and your asset distribution wishes I can explain whether a trust will be beneficial for you.
  • Property Power of Attorney.  A property power of attorney grants the legal right to manage and access a property to an attorney or agent (in the event a person is unable to do so themselves, such as in the case of incapacity).
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney/Healthcare Proxy. Through a healthcare power of attorney, also referred to as a Healthcare Proxy, an individual can be appointed to make critical medical decisions in the event you are unable to communicate your medical directives.
  • Advance Directives. An advance directive allows an individual to express their end-of-life care decisions, in the event that an end-of-life health care decision needs to be made when the individual can no longer communicate their wishes.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is an arrangement in which an individual (known as a “grantor”) transfers his or her assets into a trust, which is then managed by an individual or corporate entity (referred to as a “trustee”).  The grantor creates a written trust agreement specifying how, when, and to whom his or her assets will be distributed, both during the grantor’s lifetime, during incapacity and after death.  Often, the grantor also serves as the initial trustee.

Legal title to the assets is then transferred to the trust, and the trustee manages and distributes the property in accordance with the Grantor’s wishes (as specified in the trust agreement).  Because assets held in trust are no longer property titled in the individual name of the grantor, the assets are not considered part of his or her estate; typically allowing trust assets to bypass probate.

When Is a Trust Beneficial?

Whether a trust may be beneficial largely depends on a number of circumstances.  For example, a trust may benefit a married couple with an estate worth over one million dollars, thereby minimizing Massachusetts estate taxes, and possibly also for minimizing federal estate taxes (the federal exemption for estate taxes for 2022 is $12.06 million for an individual).  A trust may also benefit individuals with blended families, second marriages, relationships between unmarried individuals, and those wishing to provide trust benefits for their children and grandchildren.

Trusts can be extremely beneficial to provide for minor children, children who are not good with money, and children who have issues with substance abuse and addiction.  Trusts are also very important to protect and provide for children and adults with special needs and disabilities, allowing them to receive both public benefits, and benefits from the special needs trust.

What Is a Special Needs Trust?

Children with special needs can require life-long medical and other care, which can be exorbitantly expensive.  Consequently, for those with a disabled or special needs child, it is critical to engage in strategic and pragmatic estate planning that enhances the life of the child while still providing access to full government benefits (such as Medicaid and Social Security Disability).  This can typically be readily accomplished through a special needs trust.

What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney or Healthcare Proxy?

When someone suffers a disability and loses the capacity to make health and welfare decisions, without estate planning documents in place, such as a health care proxy and a durable power of attorney, loved ones may be forced to seek court appointments for the imposition of a guardianship and conservatorship.  Guardianship and conservatorship allow a representative to be named to oversee virtually all aspects of the life of another individual; however, a healthcare proxy, together with a comprehensive durable power of attorney, can typically help bypass these processes.

With a healthcare power of attorney, a person can designate an individual to make decisions about their care and welfare if they suffer a disabling injury or develop a medical condition and are no longer able to communicate.  A durable power of attorney allows an agent to exercise financial authority on behalf of a disabled/incapacitated person without the need for court involvement.

What is an Advance Directive?

Advance directives (sometimes referred to as “living wills”) allow individuals to express their own end-of-life decisions.  For example, if someone is entering an “end-of-life” stage, the advance directive/living will can be used to specify whether life-prolonging treatment or only palliative (pain relief) care should be provided.  Consequently, loved ones may not have to seek court intervention or be tasked with making such difficult and personal decisions, because they will know explicitly the wishes of their loved one in those circumstances.

Call Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with Experienced Hingham Estate Plan Attorney Anthony Gemma.

As an experienced Hingham estate planning lawyer, I can review your estate assets, discuss your objectives, explain your options, and prepare a personalized estate plan.  Don’t wait until it is too late – call today to learn how you can provide for loved ones and ensure your wishes are followed.

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