Estate Planning: Not Just for Elders You Should Prepare Now to Prevent Future Problems
June 1, 2011
Hyman G. Darling, Esq.
Maintaining your estate plan is very important, regardless of your health or age. In fact, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has already drafted a will for you, so if you want to make your own decisions about the distribution of your assets, the only way to do so is through your own will. But that’s just the first step.
This year has brought many state-specific changes in laws that require an update of your plan. For instance, in Massachusetts, there is a new homestead declaration law, which was enacted to provide an automatic exemption for homeowners. There is an additional increased exemption available if it is claimed; however, a document must be prepared, notarized, and recorded in order to become effective.
In addition, the federal law relative to estate taxes has changed so that the exemption is now $5 million per person, but only for two years. Then you must also consider your own state-specific tax laws and tax rates. Since no one knows what the law will be in two years, you shouldn’t count on the $5 million exemption forever, and therefore should plan around an anticipated reduction in the exemption.
Additional documents also need to be revised regardless of the size of your estate. One of the most important is the health care proxy, also known as a health directive, advance directive, or living will in some states. This is not just for the elderly. In fact, everyone over the age of 18 should have one, and this includes your college-age kids, because hospital privacy laws may actually prevent you from obtaining information about them if they become hurt or sick. Three of the most-highly publicized cases regarding the right to die included Karen Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, and Terri Schiavo, all relatively young women who did not have a health care proxy in place.
This document allows you to designate …
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by: Hyman G. Darling