I already have a will, and I'm wondering if any estate planning attorneys here could tell me if that's all I need, or if there's anything else I should be doing?
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
I am glad to see you are being pro-active, however I cannot give you a straight "yes" or "no" answer as it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish and how you want to manage your assets. There are a number of different options available to you which include establishing various types of trusts, gift giving, charitable giving, etc. Rather then recite a treatise on the topic I suggest that you contact a local estate planning attorney. However, before you do that first think about what you want to accomplish - caring for children, donating to charity, etc. I wish you all the best.
Family Law Attorney
When doing a will, I also have clients execute a durable power of atty./guardian designation, so someone can be in charge of your affairs if you are alive but incompetent. Also have them do a living will/health care proxy, again to have someone in charge to make medical decisions when you cannot, and to address any feelings you have on being kept alive by extraordinary means.
I will assume your will is fairly recent and addresses your needs. Whether a trust is needed as part of your estate plan (for example for any minors who might inherit, to address possible estate tax issues or to address long term care needs) I presume was addressed when the will was prepared.
Estate Planning Attorney
Everyone needs a Will, a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive (Proxy). You may need or want a Trust, and you may need to engage in Estate-Tax planning. You may also (depending on your age) need to consider the issues of Long Term Care and whether or not you need some "Elder Law" advice. I often tell people that the Will (although important) is the least important of your planning tools. You should see an attorney to ensure you have done all you need to do.
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I agree with my colleagues. I also want to add that a Will is not a plan, its a will as the word states. You need a plan first.
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Elder Law Attorney
When asked this question, I often advise prospective clients that the Will is the least of your concerns if you are satisfied with the distribution scheme that the state will use following your death. However, many people want to ensure that a specific individual will represent their estate as a personal representative or have some unique issues to address. In those cases, a Will is very important.
However, more important than the Will are those documents that benefit you during your lifetime. These are the Durable Power of Attorney, a document that allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf for financial transactions and other issues, and a health care proxy, a document that appoints a primary and an alternate representative to act for you when you have been declared unable to make your own health care decisions. These two documents can save you a lot of money because without them, someone would need to pursue a guardianship or conservatorship from the Courts to act in your best interest. Additionally, I prepare documents that give your designated representatives access to health care information so that HIPAA will not be a concern and a Living Will where you communicate your desire surrounding the extent of care you desire.
Additionally, you may have other concerns that could be addressed with a variety of trusts. This can only be determined following a detailed review of your information. Let me know if I can help and best of luck!
Elder Law Attorney
The other thing you don't mention is the size of your estate. Massachusetts taxes estates worth $1 million and over. Tax planning is a part of estate planning -- and that's not something that's usually covered by a will.
E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question.
It is impossible to give you advice without knowing what you trying to accomplish and your goals. You need to consult an estate planning attorney.
The information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. Answering this question does not in any way constitute legal representation.
When you say you have a will, do you mean, that a lawyer prepared a will and that you signed it in front of witnesses with his or her assistance? Because if you have a canned will from a software program or one of these non-lawyer websites or some other such non-lawyer contrivance, then I would suggest you take your stuff and have a lawyer look at it in the location in which you reside for an opinion. Not looking at the documents, we can't really pass on the validity of that instrument.
No legal representation exists by virtue of this answer. Consult your attorney. Licensed to practice law in Indiana and Illinois. Circular 230 Disclosure: any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matters addressed herein.