Components of a Good Estate Plan

Wills: A will provides for the orderly transition of probate property to one’s beneficiaries, appoints a representative who orchestrates this process, and nominates guardians for minor children, among other things. Probate property involves property that does not automatically transition to others in some other way (e.g. designated beneficiaries of a life insurance polity).

Trusts: Trusts have many purposes, and you may or may not need one in your situation. A typical situation for a trust would be where you wish for a third party to handle finances to care for someone who is unable to do so on their own (e.g. a pre-adult child or someone with special needs).

Durable Power of Attorney : In the event you are incapacitated and unable to manage your finances (bills, investments, etc.), a durable power of attorney gives someone you designate the authority to handle your financial matters.

Health Care Proxy: In the event you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself (e.g. accident, stroke, etc.), you can designate a health-care proxy to have the authority to make health-care decisions on your behalf.

Advanced Directive: You want to help your family or health care proxy all you can to make health-care decisions on your behalf. Without guidance from you, this can be a great burden to bear for your family or your health-care proxy. Advanced directives allow you to record your wishes regarding your health care.

HIPAA Release: These documents authorize the disclosure of your protected health information to people you designate.

Declaration of Homestead: These documents protect your home from the reach of creditors in many (but not all) situations. It provides added protection for what could be your most important asset: your home.

Release of Electronically Stored Information: This document authorizes the access to and release of your “digital assets,” such as computer files, financial and social media accounts, music and photographs, to people responsible for various aspects of managing your estate.

Parental Appointment of Guardian: Under Massachusetts law, this document designates whom you wish to act as temporary guardian of your minor children upon the death and/or incapacity of both parents, until a permanent guardian can be appointed (usually through your will).