By Elizabeth A. Caruso, Esq.  

Legal Legacy Planning, LLC  

This month’s Elder Law Myth Busters column will debunk the most frequently used excuses as to why people do not need to do estate planning.

1. Estate planning is only for the rich. This could not be further from the truth. Based on our privacy laws in Massachusetts and the emphasis on individual liberty with regard to decision-making, without a health care proxy or a power of attorney, short of a court order, there is no one on Earth who can make a health or financial decision for you. This means not your spouse and not your children. Even the people closest to you need to be given the expressed, written authority to make medical and financial decisions for you. Without a health care proxy or power of attorney, valuable time can be wasted on court hearing while your life is in limbo. This level of estate planning is necessary whether you have $5 or $5,000,000. In addition to health care proxies and powers of attorney, trusts are a vital part of an estate plan for anyone who owns real estate.

2. Don’t want to make hard decisions. Many times, we hear from families who procrastinated in creating their estate plan because they did not want to make difficult decisions like “Who will be the guardian of our children?”, “Is it appropriate to give one child more assets than another?”, or “Do we hold our child’s inheritance in trust for their life?”. Each of these decisions comes with their own myriad of issues, but they all lead to the same conclusion – if you do not overcome the mental block of answering the tough questions, you will put your family in a worse position than if you had simply made the tough choice. Not following through on some of these difficult decisions can put your family in the position to not only have to go through the probate court, but also potential litigation.

3. Do-it-yourself solutions. Many people think that they can buy kits from celebrities on infomercials or download documents from online companies and have their estate plan appropriately covered. This could not be further from the truth. Many of these online solutions come as a “one size fits all” approach and are not state-specific. Your estate plan should be drafted with the laws of your resident state in mind, in this case, Massachusetts. As I’m sure you can imagine, we have many nuances that are unique to our state. Not taking these state-specific nuances into account can have disastrous effects on your estate plan and land your family with a probate court mess after your death.

Having an honest and educated discussion with an elder law attorney can help you overcome these excuses, or any others that you may have come up with on your own!

About the Author: Elizabeth A. Caruso, Esq. is an attorney at Legacy Legal Planning, LLC, in Norwell. She has been practicing estate planning, probate, and elder law on the South Shore for more than a decade. If this article has sparked questions for you, please feel free to reach out via phone 781-971-5900 or email to schedule a time to discuss your unique situation.