Estate Planning for Pets
Estate planning is vital to protect your assets and secure your future. With the right estate plan, you can feel confident knowing that whatever circumstances come your way, your decisions regarding your assets, care for your minor children, and your health care will be respected. You can also feel safe knowing your loved ones will be cared for properly after you’re gone.
At The Heritage Law Center, we prioritize a personalized approach with each client to ensure your estate plan supports your needs and goals. We offer a free consultation to help you navigate your options, too. If you’re ready to speak with a skilled estate planning lawyer serving the Boston area, Matthew Karr, Esq., is ready to help build the right estate plan for you.
What Is Estate Planning?
An estate plan is a compilation of important documents that outline how you want your estate handled in case of incapacitation or death, and detail what your health care wishes are in case you become incapacitated. If you have a child or pet, your estate plan may also outline who you appoint as their guardians. Important pillars many estate plans include are wills, trusts, and health care directives.
There’s a common misconception that estate planning is reserved only for seniors, those already ill, or wealthy people. No matter your finances, age, or health, estate planning is an important step in preparing for your future. Life is uncertain, and it’s impossible to predict when an estate plan will be needed. It’s critical to keep an updated, official estate plan filed so you’re proactive for unforeseen circumstances.
A wise time to start estate planning is when you start a family. When you get married or have a child, developing a will or trust can help by naming a guardian to care for your minor child and preparing your assets to be left to your loved ones if you become incapacitated or pass away. You may also consider estate planning when you accumulate assets you’d like to leave behind, like a vehicle, property, or bank account.
Some find the estate planning process daunting and may put it off because they worry it will be too complicated or emotional. A skilled estate planning lawyer like Matthew Karr, Esq., makes it easier for you by explaining your options in clear terms and helping to guide you to the decisions that will work best for you and your family. Matthew understands the complex emotions that arise in this process and has years of experience helping clients like you create strong estate plans.
It’s important to partner with an estate planning attorney who’s ready to answer your questions and dedicate time to understanding your concerns and needs. Whatever your circumstances, a personalized estate plan will help you stay prepared and protected.
Wills for Boston Residents
- Bank accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Properties and houses
- Retirement accounts
- Other personal possessions
A simple will, which is a basic will, allows you to document your beneficiaries and what specific assets they will receive when you die. You can also name a guardian for your minor child.
Who you choose to leave your assets to is a personal choice that may be shaped by factors most important to you, like how you’d like to provide for your immediate family or who you’d like to pass down heirlooms to.
In Massachusetts, a will for a Boston resident must meet these criteria:
- The person creating the will (testator) must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind
- It must be signed by the testator (or by someone under the testator’s direction)
- It must be signed by two witnesses
- The witnesses must not be beneficiaries
- It must be written, not spoken, except in certain instances
Certain loved ones may make requests from you for what they’d like to receive, like a granddaughter requesting an heirloom necklace. You may choose to take their requests into account as you create your will.
Trusts for Boston Residents
Trusts are legal agreements that permit an assigned party to manage assets for the trust’s designated beneficiaries. There’s the person creating the trust (grantor) and the person named to manage the trust (trustee). In many cases, the grantor is named as the trustee. There’s also a successor trustee named in case the trustee becomes incapacitated or passes away.
Think of a trust as a storage center for your assets, and your trustee as the overseer who has access to the storage center and controls what can be done with its contents based on the trust’s instructions.
One of the benefits of a trust over a will is that a trust operates during your lifetime, while a will only functions upon your death. That means a trust helps manage your assets while you’re alive. A great example: if you create a trust and become incapacitated, your trustee can manage your trust assets for you until you recover. Upon your death, the trustee will manage the trust and distribute its assets according to the instructions in the trust.
Another advantage of a trust is that you can set it up so that instead of giving a beneficiary their inheritance all at once, they receive a staggered distribution. If you’re concerned about how a loved one will handle a large sum of money given to them at one time, using a trust allows you to provide smaller sums over time. This may include giving a percentage of the money for certain life events you find important like higher education.
Even if you’re not concerned about how a loved one will manage money, trusts offer many benefits. Unlike a will, which is public knowledge due to the probate process, a trust is private. The contents of your trust are only available to the trustee and the beneficiaries.
One reason some individuals opt to establish a trust instead of or in addition to a will is that trusts avoid probate. Ultimately, this will help save money for your loved ones by avoiding probate fees, and give your loved ones access to assets as soon as possible.
What Are My Options for a Trust?
Trusts offer various options to cover the many needs of people making an estate plan. Boston residents may need an estate planning lawyer serving the Boston area to help them determine what type of trust works best for their needs.
There are two main types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. As long as you’re alive and not incapacitated, your revocable trust can be changed at any time. This means if your family expands and you want to include new loved ones as beneficiaries, you can do so.
It also means if circumstances have changed and you want to disinherit someone and remove them from your trust, you can also do so.
Revocable trusts offer flexibility, which can be critical if you’re in a stage of life where your estate is still growing and changing. You can also revoke this type of trust.
Irrevocable trusts can’t be changed once they are created. Irrevocable trusts are less flexible, but they offer certain benefits like some irrevocable trusts provide a reduction of estate taxes and protection for assets in regard to getting qualified for government benefits like MassHealth.
Trusts for Specific Needs
Trusts can also be more specific. For example, you may want to create a pet trust. This establishes a caretaker for your pets after your passing, as well as a money manager (trustee) for the assets you leave in the trust. Your estate plan should meet the needs of all your loved ones, not just the human ones.
If you have a loved one who struggles with gambling or other financial worries, a spendthrift trust may be useful for your family. These trusts don’t allow your loved one full access to the funds you’ve left them, which protects the inheritance from creditors. A trustee is put in charge to make sure the individual has their needs met but is protected from squandering a sizable inheritance..
Certain trusts also provide tax benefits. With a charitable trust, you can donate portions of your assets to specific charities each year. This may minimize what you owe to the government when you file annual taxes and it may generate income. It also allows you to practice philanthropy and support causes close to your heart.
An estate planning lawyer serving Boston can be vital in helping you choose the right option for you. Talk to our lawyer about your specific needs, and he’ll review the best options for you and your family.
What Does Probate Court Mean for Boston Families?
Probate is the process that distributes a deceased individual’s assets. When someone dies with a will, the probate court validates that will according to specific criteria.
If the court finds the will valid, creditors claim payments from the estate, and the decedent’s assets will be transferred to their beneficiaries according to their instructions. Even with simple probate cases, this procedure may stretch on for twelve to eighteen months, leaving loved ones with no access to the money and assets you’ve left for them.
If an individual dies without a will or trust, the probate court will use Massachusetts laws to determine how their assets should be handled. In Boston, the intestacy laws indicate that the surviving spouse will receive most of the decedent’s assets. If there’s no surviving spouse, the assets are split evenly among the children.
Without an estate plan, you lose the opportunity to decide where your assets and hard-earned money will be allocated upon your death. You also risk leaving your loved ones without access to your assets for months, and they may struggle to afford medical bills and living expenses without that help.
Developing a comprehensive and strategic estate plan ahead of time with an experienced estate planning lawyer serving Boston, like Matthew Karr, Esq., ensures your assets stay protected and will be distributed according to your requests. It also ensures your family will be cared for and won’t be put through a stressful, extensive probate procedure.
Can I Change My Estate Plan?
Many aspects of your estate plan are changeable, which is important so you can change your plan through the years to reflect updates to your assets and beneficiaries. We recommend reviewing your estate plan every few years to make sure it will still do what you want it to. An irrevocable trust is a document that can’t be changed after it’s created. To determine whether a component of your estate plan like a trust may be changed, consult our estate planning lawyer to learn if it’s revocable or irrevocable.
When you’re thinking it’s time to review and update your estate plan, talk to a trusted estate planning lawyer serving Boston, like Matthew Karr, Esq., who can help you make sure your estate plan is still ideal for your assets, family, and estate planning priorities. For any component of your estate plan that can be changed, it’s important to update it as needed to ensure that the most recent copy is on file should something happen.
Reach Out to an Estate Planning Lawyer Serving Boston
Matthew Karr, Esq., at The Heritage Law Center is eager to help you start your estate planning journey. We understand the anxieties and emotions associated with estate planning, and we’re here to offer guidance and support so Boston residents can feel empowered as they take their first steps.
Our personalized approach ensures your estate plan truly supports your specific needs. With a strategic, comprehensive estate plan, you’ll stay protected and prepared for all life’s uncertainties. You can also trust that your assets and loved ones will be cared for upon your death.
If you’re ready to protect your assets and secure your future with a skilled estate planning lawyer serving Boston residents, call us at 617-299-6976 or fill in our online form below for a free consultation today.