If you plan to give away property or assets, or protect a loved one with special needs after you pass away, you’ll need to create a will, trust document, or other estate planning document, advises KHTS’s recent article entitled “Common Documents An Estate Planning Attorney Can Draft.” Let’s take a look at these:

Trusts and Wills. An experienced Wellesley estate planning attorney can draft documents, such as a will or trust, to ensure that your property is distributed the way you’d want it in the event of your death. A will can do this. Our special needs estate planning attorneys can also assist you in keeping assets out of probate court. A trust is crucial if you have to keep the money you give away out of your estate, and a special needs plan will include a least one trust. Some trusts can provide asset protection while others provide protection of vulnerable or irresponsible beneficiaries from themselves or outsiders or both. They may reduce or eliminate estate taxes. They may plan for long-term care needs, a disabled person’s access to public benefits, charitable intentions, and many other goals.

Revocable Living Trust. The most common trust people have in their estate plan is a revocable trust, often called a revocable living trust or RLT.  A RLT is set up while you’re alive rather than waiting until your death, so that you can change it at any time without court administration. A RLT also doesn’t require probate or court approval. The way money passes through a trust is instead determined by the terms of the state of Massachusetts or the state in which you live.

Medical Powers of Attorney. This legal document lets a person delegate specific healthcare decisions, if incapacitated. This document doesn’t supersede a living will or any other advance directive but allows an individual to enjoy more flexibility. A medical power of attorney also allows the individual to appoint a healthcare proxy and someone to the power of attorney who can make medical decisions in their name while they are still capable.

A Healthcare Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decision-Making. The name of this legal document changes based on one’s state of residence and allows individuals to delegate specific authority over their financial and legal affairs. A durable power of attorney also permits the individual to appoint someone as guardian, who can make financial decisions for the individual when they cannot do so. Of course, a guardian can’t make decisions for the incapacitated person in all situations. For example, they may be unable to protect the individual’s assets from creditors. However, a guardian can make financial decisions and has the power to access your bank account, even if you’re incapacitated. Read more about healthcare documents in our article Critical but underappreciated estate planning: Incapacity Documents

It’s never too early to start planning for your future and estate. However, without the proper legal documents, your property may not be distributed as you would like, or other necessary steps may not be taken.  Plus, the people you include in your plan are a big part of the plan design. It’s essential to consider not only who will inherit your property after you pass away, but also who will make decisions for you, if you become incapacitated, or for your minor children or adult disabled children.  Contact our team of Wellesley experienced estate planning attorneys at Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts for legal strategies structured specifically for disabled families that need to protect a loved one with special needs. Check out our online Special Needs Estate Planning Masterclass to guide you in how to start outlining decisions for your special needs estate plan and prepare to work with an attorney.

Reference: KHTS (Dec. 15, 2022) “Common Documents An Estate Planning Attorney Can Draft”