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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Estate Plan?

An Estate Plan is a set of instructions left by you for your loved ones to direct them in the event of your death or incapacity.
Estate Plans consist of documents executed by you.  Estate Plans can include Trusts, Wills, Healthcare Proxies, Powers of Attorney and Living Wills

What happens if I die without a Will?
If you die without a Will, you are said to have died intestate. Intestacy laws and the Probate court, not you, will determine who inherits your assets. A will is crucial to insure your assets are received by those you choose.
What is Probate?
Probate is a formal court proceeding required by the state to legally determine who will inherit your property. The purpose of Probate is to prove that the Will is valid and that it was executed legally.  Once the Will has been declared valid by the Probate court, the court will appoint the Personal Representative. The Personal Representative can then liquidate the assets.
How is a Living Will different from a Will?

A Living Will addresses your personal healthcare in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself.  The Living Will will guide your family if they are ever called upon to make a life or death decision.

It is a statement that you do not wish your life artificially extended. In that event, you wish to be removed from life support except for medication to alleviate pain and suffering. A Living Will works along with a Healthcare Proxy.  Note that in Massachusetts this document alone is not enforceable.  However, it can be included along with the healthcare proxy as a statement of your intent.

A Will also referred to as a Last Will & Testament is a person’s declaration of how they want their assets distributed after their death.

What Is a Trust? What does a Trust do?

 

A Trust is traditionally used for minimizing estate taxes and can offer other benefits as part of a comprehensive estate plan.

The terms of The Trust dictate the purpose of The Trust and how it will be administered. Some Trusts minimize estate tax. Other Trusts administer assets for minors until they reach a prearranged age, such as 25 or 30. If you have an existing Trust and you are uncertain of the purpose, you should have it reviewed by an Estate Planning attorney to ensure that it is serving your individual needs.

How do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a government program that provides financial support to workers with long-term disabilities of one year or more who cannot work. It is funded by The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, which are paid by both employees and employers from their payroll taxes. Once they are approved for benefits, SSDI beneficiaries will receive Medicare coverage after two years. In addition, beneficiaries may be eligible for education and training assistance, as well as work incentives, which allow them to test their ability to work without losing their benefits. Family members of disabled workers may also receive benefits, if certain eligibility requirements are met, including spouses, parents, and children. To qualify for SSDI benefits, an applicant must meet the non-medical and medical requirements.
Where should I keep my Will, Trusts and other Estate Planning documents?
Don’t hide your estate planning documents!  For example, your estate planning documents should not be kept in a safe deposit box. Many people choose to keep their estate planning documents in a fireproof box in their home. You should inform your loved ones that you have executed the documents, and where they are kept in the event they need to access them. Your attorney’s office will also keep a copy of the executed documents.
Can I make changes to my documents?
Yes, you can make changes to your Will either by executing a new Will or by executing a Codicil. Do not handwrite changes to an existing Will. In most cases, the handwritten changes will not be recognized as valid and may result in extra legal costs to probate the Will. They can also lead to disputes between heirs.

A Trust can be changed by a simple amendment or in many cases, by amending and restating the entire Trust document.

When would I need a power of attorney?
A Power of Attorney designates someone else to act on your behalf.  A Durable Power of Attorney grants an automatic POA in the event you are unable to handle your own affairs.  Even basic day to day tasks such as banking or running a business can be difficult without the proper legal “permission”.
I got divorced, how do I update my Will?
When one gets divorced, they will often want to change the beneficiaries or guardianship provisions of a Will.  You can make changes to your Will either by executing a new Will or by executing a Codicil.

 

How do I protect my assets from Medicaid liens?
Careful Medicaid planning can eliminate any concern over Medicaid liens.  We pride ourselves on having the most up to date information about Medicaid and other government programs for elders.
How do I select a guardian for my children?

There are many factors involved in selecting a guardian for your minor children.    The most important thing is that you create documents to make sure that the correct person(s) is granted guardianship.  This is a complicated issue, and the Law Office of Marina Dvorkin can guide you and walk you through the process of choosing and designating a guardian.