YES! You Can Wait on Your Estate Planning!

Pereira Law, P.C. – September 2015

It can be easy to put estate planning on the back burner.  We don’t like to think about our own mortality, and it may seem pointless to make financial investments into “what if”-type situations when those decisions can potentially be made at a later time.

But waiting may come at a cost.

If you choose to wait on your estate planning, these are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Incapacity.  Deciding who gets your property when you pass is just a small piece of your estate plan.  What happens during your lifetime is far more important.  If you were involved in an accident, got sick, or became disabled, who would speak for you? Who would pay your bills or make important medical decisions?  You can designate these trusted individuals before unexpected incapacitation occurs.  

In Massachusetts, a typical estate plan consists of what we refer to as the four “core” documents.  This includes a Last Will and Testament, a Health Care Proxy, a HIPAA Release Form, and a Durable Power of Attorney.  You can read more about these documents and the legal effects each possess on our website.  Without these legal documents in order, your loved ones may be forced to establish a guardianship and/or conservatorship with the court in order to carry out your personal business, such as paying your bills and providing for your care.  Court-appointed guardians and conservators must function under the close supervision of the court, often resulting in excess time and money spent.

2. Look Back Periods.  Nursing home care currently costs between $130,000 to $150,000 annually.   To offset these increasingly high costs, many people are seeking to secure MassHealth Long-Term Care benefits.  Currently, the state determines eligibility by looking back five years from the date of your application to determine if unacceptable transfers of assets were made.  Developing an estate plan prior to this look back period may allow you to protect your assets and preserve them for your heirs and beneficiaries while avoiding penalties or disqualification from the benefits.  

If a plan has not been established and nursing home care is immediately needed, we still may be able to help through “crisis planning,” which grants legal methods of spending down an applicant’s assets in order to qualify for benefits.  However, this is a technique that often limits your options and should be avoided if possible.

3. The Future is Hard to Predict.  Accidents, illness, death or other crises often come without warning.  It is important to consider what will happen to your minor children, your personal property, or your home and other real estate if you are no longer able to handle your affairs.  An estate plan allows you to legally document your wishes, helping to relieve any financial or emotional burdens that may fall on your loved ones in their efforts to carry out your requests. 

Contact us today to learn more through a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (508) 675-1188.

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