As a Massachusetts and Rhode Island estate planning attorney, a common misperception I encounter is that someone needs to be wealthy to need an “estate plan.” That is a terrible misunderstanding. The term “estate plan” refers, in part, to those documents such as wills, health care proxies, powers of attorney, and trusts which protect us, our families, and our assets while we are alive and after we die. At a minimum, all adults should have a will, health care proxy and power of attorney.
A will, of course, allows us to determine who will receive our assets and possessions after we die. Otherwise Massachusetts or Rhode Island intestacy laws will determine distribution. Further, a will allows us to name custodians for our children so our survivors can avoid expensive, and often lengthy, custody proceedings in Rhode Island or Massachusetts probate court. A health care proxy enables us to set forth our wishes for health care treatment in the event of our incapacity or incompetency, and also to name one or more health care agents – usually a family member — to administer those wishes. A power of attorney names a family member or other person to administer our financial and other personal affairs. The power of attorney may be durable, thus taking effect immediately, or can be springing, meaning that it takes effect only upon our incapacity.
Particularly for those of us with spouses, partners, and especially children, having a basic estate plan is a matter of responsible living. Failing to execute an estate plan can lead to tremendous inconvenience, heartache and financial strain for those we leave behind or who must care for us if we become disabled or incompetent. Thus, no matter how large or small you financial portfolio, you should consult a Massachusetts or Rhode Island estate planning attorney to discuss an estate plan.