Estate Planning Attorney in Massachusetts
A survey reported on caring.com found that less than 36 percent of adults with minor children have any sort of estate plan. Among millennials (18-36 years old), a staggering 78 percent lack even a simple will. While this statistic seems unbelievable, estate planning is not at the top of most younger adults’ to-do list. In fact, far too many younger adults in the United States simply see no reason for estate planning—not even a simple will. After all, they are young and healthy and may believe estate planning is only for the elderly or the very rich. Unfortunately, even young, healthy adults can suffer an accident or illness, and making sure you have a plan in place for the unexpected is always the wiser choice.
Estate planning is for anyone and everyone—young to old, and rich to living paycheck to paycheck. If you have anything—and most adults do—and if you have minor children, estate planning should definitely be on your radar. Once a young person turns 18, they are considered an adult under the law; the rights their parents formerly had as far as making medical and financial decisions are no longer available. The young adult may be going to college, getting married, having children, buying a home, or getting a pet. All of these life events make estate planning all that more necessary for young families.
No matter your age or income level, you currently have an estate that consists of the money, property, and assets you own. If you were to be involved in an accident or suffer an illness, you need to know what will happen—not only to what you have worked for, but also to your children, spouse, and pets, if they are a part of your life. You may have family members, friends, or charities you would want your assets to go to, yet without an estate plan, those wishes will not be honored. The Law Offices of James A. Miller, P.C., can help you through the estate planning process. We will ensure that your estate plan fits your life circumstances and is specific to you and your needs.
Estate Planning Issues to Consider for Young Families
There are a number of issues you should consider when planning your estate, including the following:
- Naming a guardian for your minor children is perhaps the single biggest reason for young parents to engage in estate planning. Consider the fact that if you and your child’s other parent should both pass away without naming a guardian, the court will take it upon themselves to do that for you. While the court will attempt to name a family member, what if that family member happens to be one you would never choose to raise your child? It is so much better to name a guardian for your child in your will—someone you trust to raise your child as you would wish. If you are a single parent, having this decision in place is even more important. If you are making the decision of a guardian with your spouse or the child’s other parent, the two of you may not agree on who should raise your child, so you may want to avoid the discussion. It is far better to disagree about it now—but come to a decision—than to leave that decision to a stranger.
- Making your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets known is the next important reason for having an estate plan prepared. If you fail to outline how you would like your property distributed after your death, the court will make those decisions on your behalf. Under Massachusetts law, your spouse is first in line to inherit your assets; if you have no spouse, but do have children, then your children inherit everything. If you have a spouse, and children from that spouse, your spouse inherits everything. If you have a spouse and children from another person, your spouse will inherit the first $100,000 of your estate plus half of the balance, and your children will inherit the other half. If you do not have a spouse or children, your parents are next in line, followed by your siblings, nieces, and nephews. Think carefully about whether this is how you would want your assets to be distributed.
- Making decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated is another good reason to engage in estate planning. Obviously, no one ever intends to be involved in an accident or fall ill, yet those unexpected tragedies can and do happen. A healthcare proxy allows you to state your wishes regarding end-of-life medical care in the event of your incapacitation, including pain management, breathing resuscitation, organ donation, and what you would want if you were in a coma. Rather than leaving those decisions to a family member, it always a better idea to name a person of your choice to make the decisions on your behalf.
- Choosing an executor or trustee for your estate is yet another good reason to consider estate planning. This means choosing a person you trust to “wind down” your estate, paying your outstanding bills, filing your final taxes, and distributing your assets as you would wish. A trustee is chosen when you have a revocable health care proxy and an executor or personal representative for a Last Will and Testament.
- Choosing another person to manage money and property for your children could be necessary when the person you choose to raise your child is not as good at managing money as nurturing children. You can appoint another person as a financial trustee to manage the finances on behalf of our children until they reach the age of 18, or whatever age you direct.
- Ensuring you have named beneficiaries for your life insurance and retirement accounts. If you want your retirement account and life insurance to go to the trust, it is important that everything is in order regarding beneficiary designations.
Estate planning does not have to be expensive or particularly time-consuming. Having a will, a health care proxy, and a power of attorney drawn up can be done for a reasonable cost, with a modest amount of time outlay on your part. Once your estate plan is in place, you might be pleasantly surprised to realize how much peace of mind you gain from taking care of this very important task.
How the Law Offices of James A. Miller Can Help Young Families Plan Their Estate
The Law Offices of James A. Miller, P.C., provides the necessary legal knowledge, sound advice, and years of experience you require for planning for your future. Even if you are a young adult, you do have an estate, and you do want to ensure your children and your assets are properly taken care of in the event of an unexpected accident or illness. For more information regarding the services we offer our clients in Worchester County and Middlesex County, and surrounding Massachusetts areas, call 508-799-8885, or contact our firm online.