Estate Planning

A Knowledgeable Newton Estate Planning Attorney

No one likes to think about what will happen once they are no longer here—which is why many people put off estate planning for as long as possible. However, this is a process you need to engage in sooner rather than later to help ensure you best protect the people you love and your assets now and in the future. In my work with my firm, the Law Office of Nicole James, I don’t believe in standardized estate planning. Taking into account your unique circumstances and the type of family structure you have, I help you develop a strong estate plan that gives you the ultimate self-assurance.

Depending on your assets and how you wish to distribute your property, your estate planning process may involve a number of key components. These include the following:

Wills

A will gives you the ability to determine how you would like to distribute your property after you pass away. Without a valid will, all property you accumulate during your life will be transferred per state statutes, which may be inconsistent with your wishes.

Health care directives
A health care directive, also known as medical power of attorney, enables an appointed agent to make key medical decisions on your behalf in case you’re no longer able to on your own due to incapacitation. The agent should be someone you really trust and who you know will make the decisions you would otherwise make if you could. This is particularly helpful if the grantor is in an irreversible coma or enters a vegetated state.

Power of attorney

You can name another person as your agent to make key decisions for you in case you become incapacitated. Power of attorney arrangements can be durable, which means they only go into effect under certain circumstances, or immediate, in which you may appoint someone to act on your behalf at a meeting you cannot attend. (please delete this language)

Revocable trusts and living trusts

A revocable trust is very similar to a will, as both documents give you the ability to leave assets and property to people close to you upon your death. However, a revocable trust differs from a will because if allows you to create a separate entity in which you can hold your assets while you are still alive. It also gives you the ability to retain greater control over where your property gets distributed and when the distribution happens. A trust  is particularly important when it comes to the following:

  1. Determining guardianship: With a will, you have the ability to appoint someone you trust to serve as the guardian of any minor children you have.
  2. Uphold your wishes: Bequests made to either minor or adult children can be held in a trust until they reach a particular age, which is something you may determine. Without a will, your kids will receive their share of your estate when they reach the age of 18, with no restrictions or stipulations.
  3. Protecting disabled children: A special needs trust allows any disabled children you have to continue to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid and other benefits, while still receiving their share of the assets in the trust.
  4. Avoiding costly estate taxes: Married partners should consider provisions that best protect them from paying expensive and unnecessary estate taxes.
  5. Protecting spouses and domestic partners: A will can ensure your domestic partner is provided for after you pass away. You can also help protect a spouse from a second marriage and children from your first marriage.

Additional options

More advanced trust planning may include the following:

  1. Charitable remainder trusts (CRTs): These trusts allow you to develop a planned income stream and pass significant assets to beneficiaries. You can also structure your tax savings and provide donations to charities or causes.
  2. Family limited liability companies: This allows you to hold property and assets and create sound gifting plans, while maintaining control over the assets involved.
  3. Grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs): This type of trust establishes a personal revenue stream, while developing a method for transferring wealth to heirs while you’re still alive.
  4. Irrevocable life insurance trusts: These trusts take into account insurance proceeds that your beneficiaries will receive, avoiding estate and income taxes.

Speak with a dedicated Weston estate planning lawyer

To get started with your estate planning process, meet with an experienced and compassionate attorney with the Law Office of Nicole James. From our locations in Newton and Weston, I serve individuals and families across the Boston area. Call me today at 617-213-5003 or contact my firm online to set up an appointment.

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