As many people in Massachusetts start the year with setting financial goals, one goal that should not be overlooked is to get estate plans in place. Estate planning is commonly moved to the bottom of the list for some people. If something unexpected happens, failing to have an estate plan in place can leave families unable to access assets and leave the estate in the hands of the probate court.
Business owners should consider how their business assets will pass. This is called business succession planning. Having a business succession plan in place can ensure the business will continue functioning and carry on in the event that the owner passes away.
An estate plan should include a will that clearly defines how a person’s assets will pass and to whom. Other documents might include trusts, especially for large estates, in order to help reduce the impact of the estate tax for estates over $5 million. People should also have living wills, advanced directives and durable powers of attorney drafted in order to designate who will make decisions on their behalf in the event they are incapacitated and unable to do so. Advanced directives can be used so the person’s chosen health care proxy can agree to only the types of medical care that the person wants to receive, while a durable power attorney can allow family members to make financial transactions on the person’s behalf.
Estate planning is a highly important step people should complete in order to protect their estates, ensure their assets will pass to their intended beneficiaries and that their families will be able to continue on without having to endure possible litigation. The documents a person will need in the estate plan will vary from person to person, and an estate planning attorney may be able to help explain the best available options.
Source: FOX Business, “Put Estate Planning On Your Bucket List”, Jan. 9, 2015
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