Basic Elements and Benefits of Estate Planning
Estate planning gives form and structure to the hopes, dreams and desires that you have for your future, and the future of the people you love. The basic documents are Wills, Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxy.
Power of Attorney:
Many of us take for granted our ability to talk and express ourselves. But what happens if a person suffers an injury or an illness like Alzheimer's, and they become unable to communicate informed decisions?
Durable Power of Attorney ("DPOA") covers your material possessions: your real estate, bank accounts and other assets. Without POA, your family members would need a Probate Court Conservatorship to manage you business affairs.
Health Care Proxy:
The person you designate as your “Agent” in your Health Care Proxy has authority for your health care and treatment at times when you cannot speak for yourself. Massachusetts law says that your Agent “shall have the authority to make any and all health care decisions on [your] behalf that [you] could make, including decisions about life-sustaining treatment. Without a Health Care Proxy, your family would need to petition the Probate Court for Guardianship.
Example: A Family With Young Children
Mr. and Mrs. Avery have three children. The family members are in good health, but Barry has special needs that will always require some extra supervision to protect his best interests. To supplement their basic estate plan, Mr. and Mrs. Avery added a supplemental needs trust that designates a person to protect Barry's independence, and manage his money in a way that will not disqualify him from receiving special services and benefits. Mr. and Mrs. Avery have peace of mind knowing that a special plan is in place for Barry. They have a person who will step forward and manage Barry's care if something unexpected happens to them.
Example: Single Individual
Mrs. Inga Olney is retired. One of her adult children, Bob, lives with her in her home. As a widow, Mrs. Olney has decided to designate a person to manage her assets, in case she becomes unable to do so. In addition to her Power of Attorney, and Health Care Proxy, Mrs. Olney has established an irrevocable trust that will protect her assets. Mrs. Olney has also set up a Supplemental Needs Trust for Bob.