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What is an Estate Plan?

Blog, Trust & Estate Planning

Posted in on February 4, 2016

An estate plan is not a Will, although a Will is certainly part of a good estate plan.  In a good estate plan, the Will may be the least important document.   If a Will is not an estate plan, then what is? A good estate plan consists of at least three documents: a Will, a Health Care Proxy with guidance (also known as the Health Care Power of Attorney) and a Durable Power of Attorney.  More documents may be necessary depending on your personal circumstances, for example if you have minor children then your estate plan is not complete without a Family Trust.   In addition if you have sufficient assets to be subject to the Federal Estate Tax or because you live in a state that has its own estate tax (such as Massachusetts) you will need additional trust documents as well.

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Far more important and most often overlooked when thinking about estate planning is the potential for incapacity and the accompanying planning aspects.  The Will in the end is about your things; incapacity planning on the other hand is about you.

This is profoundly difficult for most people to think about let alone discuss with their family and friends.  If you don’t plan for your own incapacity when you have the ability to do so, when you need these documents it is too late as you will no longer have the legal capacity to create them.  A well drafted Health Care Proxy contains instruction or guidance for your loved ones and is evidence of your end of life preferences. Do you want to live in a persistent vegetative state?  Do you want your family or loved ones to possibly fight over what medical procedures are done to you if you are not able to decide for yourself?

A Durable Power of Attorney goes hand in hand with the health care proxy. In the event you are incapacitated, be it the onset of dementia and old age, terminal illness or a traumatic brain injury,  a Durable Power of Attorney can avoid expensive guardianship proceedings.  Life is difficult enough for the loved ones of incapacitated adults without having to seek judicial intervention.  A Durable Power of Attorney can alleviate much of the day to day stress your loved ones have in trying to care for you, including filing taxes, making insurance claims, cashing checks or managing your assets.  Many people think that spouses automatically have the right to represent one another in these types of transactions; however that is not always the case.

A good estate plan that contains all of the above discussed documents is similar to a good insurance policy, and like any insurance, you do not appreciate how valuable it is until you need it.  Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C. today to schedule a meeting to discuss your estate planning needs.