Wills and Estates
At Karsner & Meehan, P.C., we help you organize and confront the decisions that will make things easier for your family and those you wish to benefit at the time of your death. Some estate planning choices will affect your affairs during your life. For example, besides your Will, legal authority can be assigned through a well-planned Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy, and a Living Will. All are designed to make transfers easier when you are personally not able to accomplish them.Think: it’s all about “Me.”
As professional attorneys, we too often see the results of failure to provide for the inevitable. By nature, people have a tendency to avoid these uncomfortable topics, and don’t want to face the “What Ifs.” Addressing your concerns, and putting your plan into action doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. The attorney-client privilege governs at all times, and we understand the complications of family life. You decide whether you want particular family members to be present for our office conferences about your wishes. Your wishes govern your estate planning when you create the right documents.Think: Who will handle my legal, financial, and medical affairs if I can’t?
There are documents that can put your mind at ease, and your decisions to action, for use during your lifetime. Your Last Will, of course, only comes into effect upon your death and once admitted to probate by the Court. Often, during your lifetime a need arises for assistance with legal, financial, and medical decision-making. Certain documents can be a great assist to your family or loved ones during those times, and more important, not having those documents can create unnecessary turmoil. Such documents as a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy are important tools to simplify handling your affairs while you are not able. It is important not only to make these decisions but to create the valid documents while you are able to do so. Your family will thank you. Our attorneys are experienced at assisting you with these planning tools.
The importance of these documents is increasingly visible in news stories across the country. Interestingly, the use of these documents can spare you and your family the likelihood of being splashed across the national media in times of family crisis! We prefer our 15 minutes of fame to be on another topic.
In today’s world of blended families and non-custodial relationships, we can help you to protect your minor children, grandchildren, and your assets during your lifetime; to clearly direct your assets to those whom you wish to benefit, and to keep those assets under the control of persons you choose, whom you trust. That straightforwardness is our goal in creating your estate planning documents.Why do I need a will?
Knowing who is entitled to share in your estate, and whether and how you can alter the state law on that issue, Karsner & Meehan, P.C. can help you review your estate plan, or create one to meet your wishes. Contact us today.
We can help you organize and plan for life’s uncertainties. What if something happened to me? Who would take care of things? My spouse? My parents? My child?
At Karsner & Meehan, we want you to think through the specifics of these “What Ifs.” Here are some guidelines to help you get your plans in order. Discuss these with your family, then your attorney. Consider different alternatives we may suggest, until you are confident that you understand the options enough to choose the right ones for your needs at this time.
- Whom do you want to benefit - or not?
- Who will be your “estate manager,” or personal representative?
- How do you feel about prolonging your life and funeral plans?
Sometimes this is an easy one, sometimes not! You need to also be aware who the law requires you to address in your will, and how your estate will pass under new Massachusetts law (Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, or MUPC, went into effect for estates on March 31, 2012) if you do not have a will. Often your beneficiaries may require special handling due to age, whether young or old; government benefit eligibility; particular habits that concern you such as poor financial skills, gambling habits, or drug or alcohol abuse. Sometimes you need to make sure property that you leave to a minor goes to the custody of someone who can handle the money properly - not always their parent. We can suggest approaches to handle such delicate situations. Of course, as legal professionals, your information is received in confidence.Who will be your personal representatives?
In setting up your estate plan, you need to identify a few trusted individuals who can carry out your wishes, based on your estate plan, when you aren’t around or able to do that. Here are some of those individuals:
- Personal Representative or Executor. The person who carries out the instructions of your will.
- Attorney-in-Fact. The person with legal and financial authority in your absence or unavailability during your lifetime.
- Health Care Proxy. The person who knows your medical history and your preferences for medical care. This person will consult with medical professionals and make decisions about your care if you cannot communicate your wishes.
- Trustee. The financial manager for your own money or property that you give or bequeath to another through your will. They don't call them “Trusts” for nothing. This is most often used for minor children.
- Guardian. The caretaker of the person and/or property of someone who cannot take care of themselves, because of either age or mental infirmity. You should be careful to nominate one for your minor children.
- Conservator. Under the “new” Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, or MUPC, a Conservator is the only person with legal authority to handle another’s money or assets during their lifetime – even a minor’s.
These positions are all ones of great trust and responsibility. Once named in your legal documents, they should be reviewed every few years to make sure your choice is still the best one for each role.
Under previously-governing Massachusetts law, the distinction between handling personal care decisions, as a guardian does, and financial ones, now handled exclusively by conservatorship, was much more blurred. At Karsner & Meehan, we can steer you through the changes recently enacted under the MUPC. The goals of the new law are clarity and ease, but the transition is difficult in our understaffed court system.The importance of choosing “Alternates”
A single event can change many lives dramatically, in one day. Your Will and other planning documents should always include alternate Personal Representatives and Designees. Choosing an alternate guardian for minor children is wise, for example, and an alternate Health Care Proxy if your first-named choice is not available. At Karsner & Meehan, we strive to make your documents useful for the foreseeable future, to avoid having to update them at additional cost.
Similarly, sometimes alternate provisions for distribution of your estate should be included in your Will, in case your first-named beneficiaries die before you do, or in a common accident with you. Your Will is your last opportunity to speak your wishes! Designating alternates will help carry out your wishes, even if circumstances change between now and the time the documents take effect.You’ve thought it through – now do it!
Have your legal professional create the documents. This means “see it through” - to signature, valid execution, and safe storage. Once signed with the formalities required by law, these documents should be stored in a waterproof, fireproof place. A safety deposit box, with your Personal Representative listed as permitted access, is ideal. The originals of these important documents will be required for filing or legal use. They must be safely stored until needed.Review your documents periodically
Even when your legal documents are well-drafted and based on your wishes, they may need updates as time goes by and circumstances change. Get in the habit of reviewing them periodically to make sure they still reflect your current wishes. Sometimes changes imposed by law can affect these documents, whether you intend it or not! Contact us if you have any questions or need changes made.Have those difficult talks
Your Personal Representatives can best carry out your wishes when you’ve made them clear. In addition to clean, professionally-drafted legal documents, you should take the opportunity to discuss issues with your Personal Representative like funeral arrangements, burial preferences, medical preferences, and “heroic measures” in the event of terminal illness. Of course, these are hard topics. The importance of this conversation is right up there with having the documents prepared! If your representatives have documents backing up your wishes, you can truly rest in peace, even during your lifetime, knowing that your wishes will control.An ounce of prevention
The cost of getting these plans in place is not minimal. Compare, though, the cost of correcting matters after it’s too late for you to speak for yourself: Your assets may not get to the persons you intend. More people will end up with title to your real estate than you intend. Guardians must be appointed for your children. Most important, you will lose the chance to assign those roles of trust and responsibility yourself unless you nominate your choices in valid legal documents while you are alive and of sound mind. We recognize the importance of getting your affairs in order. We can help with a payment plan if needed.
The professionals at Karsner & Meehan, P.C. have helped hundreds of people to sort through these difficult decisions and create comfortable, peace-of-mind plans to allow your family and business to carry on in your absence.
The contents of this page and website reflect general legal principles. For advice on a particular problem, please contact us.