Margolis & Bloom

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Why Plan Your Estate?

By Harry S. Margolis

What legacy will you leave?

There are two answers to this question. The first has to do with taking care of yourself and your spouse (if any) during life. The second has to do with what legacy you wish to leave upon your death.

First and foremost, proper estate planning ensures that you keep control of your assets while you are healthy, yet appoints someone to step-in and assist you quickly without unnecessary costs in the event you are unable to manage your own affairs. It can prevent unseemly and costly disputes over who should have the authority to represent you. It can maintain privacy by keeping your matter out of the probate court. And it can reduce costs by eliminating the need for a court-appointed guardian and additional legal fees.

Estate planning can also help ensure that you have the means of paying for long-term care costs, whether at home, in assisted living or in a nursing home. Whether this should be accomplished through the purchase of long-term care insurance or sheltering assets to qualify for MassHealth coverage depends on each individual's circumstances.

These are planning concerns that affect you and your family during life. They also effect the size of the estate that you will be able to leave your children and the stresses that will be placed on them. This has a lot to do with the legacy you leave. Preserving assets in the face of high long-term care costs, avoiding or minimizing estate taxes, and avoiding probate help your children more than they help you. Proper planning may be the last of the many gifts you give your children and grandchildren.

But it's about a lot more than the money. If you have minor children, there can be no more important or more difficult decision than who should serve as their guardian if you are no longer there. Some of our clients also have children or grandchildren with special needs that require special planning.

Unfortunately, over many years of practice, we have seen many families torn asunder by poorly planned estates. (Of course, the cracks were already present.) But whether and how you plan your estate can mean that your children will or will not be on speaking terms after you're gone. Choosing the right executor might be the most important step you take.

And don't forget charities. While it may be difficult to make large gifts during life since you need to take care of yourself and your family first, it may be easier to do so at death. In planning your estate consider what charities or interests matter most to you and whether you would like to make any of them a special gift from your estate.

1. Our approach to estate planning

Our approach to estate planning is to understand your situation and goals, and then develop the most cost-effective approach to achieving those goals. We want to get to know what you value and what your concerns are. We are committed to work together with you to protect you and your family, both now and in the future with life's changes. We would like to build and maintain a relationship with you as your trusted advisor.

2. Estate planning process

A general overview of our estate planning process is as follows:

  • Initial meeting – we will first discuss your background, values and concerns and design a plan.
  • Draft of documents – within two weeks (or earlier if necessary), we will mail to you for your review drafts of the documents we prepared according to the plan we developed at our initial meeting.
  • Document execution – we will then revise the documents according to your feedback and our further review and meet to execute final versions of the documents. We then mail a bound set of copies of your documents for your files and secure the original documents either in our safe or with you as you wish.
  • Ensuring assets titled properly – to ensure your plan is properly carried out, we will then record deeds at the appropriate Registry of Deeds (if real estate is involved) and if necessary, work with you to retitle your other assets according to the plan we developed.

3. Keeping in touch and up to date

We would like for you to view us. We will keep you updated on legal issues and changes with our quarterly newsletter and Massachusetts update, as well as weekly e-mail newsletter if you choose to receive them. We welcome updates from you and questions any time about how life changes or new laws may affect you and your family.