When you have young children, it’s hard to ever consider the idea that something unexpected might happen and you may not be around to raise them into becoming adults. After all, you’re young and healthy, right? It’s painful and sad to think these thoughts—but it’s also very necessary. Your future should include a contingency: plan for the best but prepare for the worst. After all, why would you gamble with your children’s future? 

As you consider putting together an estate plan that will provide for your young children, here are a few things to think about: 

  • Be realistic about your resources: Although you might want to set aside enough money for each of your children to attend the college or university of their choice, that time is a long way off. Make sure your children are first clothed, fed and sheltered adequately.
  • Think carefully about who you will appoint as a guardian: Many young parents put off creating an estate plan because they can’t, or don’t want to, come to a decision about who they want to select as a guardian. Choosing a guardian is not a light undertaking. You must consider the guardian’s lifestyle, values, religion and health. For example, is a grandparent healthy and capable of managing and raising one, two or three young children?
  • Consider appointing a separate person to manage the finances: It’s not uncommon for parents to appoint someone—separate from the guardian—to manage your children’s finances as they grow up. This person will handle the money, and the estate, that will be left to your kids. The individual who you choose should spend money as you would and who most closely shares your financial values and beliefs.  

If you don’t make the plans now to take care of your children (in the event something happens to you and your spouse) someone else could be making the decision for you. That could be a relative (who may or may not know your wishes), or at worst, the state who may appoint foster care or another guardian. 

Estate planning is not a selfish act—it’s intended to provide for your children and loved ones. As a Clinton and Worcester, MA Estate Planning Attorney, I assist clients every day with their estate plans. Call my office at 508.852.7800 or reach out via our contact form.

This is the 4th and final week in our monthly May series, “What Happens When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan?” Over the past few weeks, we’ve written about the basic components and documents of an estate plan, why it’s important to assess what stage in your life you’re at, what decisions need to be made, what happens during your first meeting with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney and what happens during a document execution meeting. Now, we’ll discuss what changes may need to be made (and why) to your estate plan in the future.                                                           

Week 4: What Future Changes Will You Need to Make to Your Estate Plan?
Throughout May, we’ve emphasized on this blog the fact that your estate plan will need to be created and customized to fit the situation and stage of your life you’re in now. The contents of your estate plan will depend upon your life status and if you’re married, divorced, single, have children, etc. 

As you’re aware, life changes rapidly. Even if you have created an estate plan in the past, you may need to update or modify it several times over the course of your life. If you have undergone a life-changing event, chances are you’ll need to update your estate plan. Life-changing events include: 

  • The birth of a child
  • A marriage or re-marriage
  • Divorce
  • A death in the family
  • Change in financial status
  •  Starting, buying or selling a business

 Some Massachusetts estate planning attorneys may offer special plans or incentives regarding updating your plan. For example, my office offers a unique complement for every client. If you purchase an estate plan package, you get a 3-year unlimited change bonus (changes that aren’t substantive, that is) to your estate plan. This helps give clients peace of mind about planning for their future and knowing that not all decisions must be set in stone. 

Read our previous blog posts on What Happens When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan Part 1, What Happens When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan Part 2 and What Happens at the Document Execution Meeting. 

Are you ready to create an estate plan?  If you have questions now that I can answer for you, don’t hesitate to reach out. As a Worcester, Mass Estate Planning Attorney, I assist clients every day with their estate plans. Call my office at 508.852.7800 or reach out via our contact form.

This is the third week in our monthly May series, “What Happens When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan?” So far we’ve discussed the basic components and documents of an estate plan, why it’s important to assess what stage in your life you’re at, what decisions need to be made and what happens during your first meeting with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney. Now, we’ll discuss what goes into executing your estate plan.                                                        

Week 3: What Happens at the Document Execution Meeting?
When creating an estate plan, you’ll have two meetings with your estate planning attorney. The first meeting, as we previously discussed, is to talk with your attorney about your needs, requests, and ask any questions you may have. Based on your responses, the attorney will take some time and draft up the documents. Your attorney will then send them to you for your review. Then, you’ll come to the attorney’s office for a second, final meeting in what is often called the document execution meeting. 

At the document execution meeting, you’ll have the opportunity to review the final drafts of the documents. Hopefully you’ll have looked over the documents that were emailed to you and will agree with all the changes. The signing of the documents, or execution, will need to be witnessed. That includes your will, healthcare proxy, durable power of attorney, etc. The documents are executed, which means they’re completed. And then you can breathe a sigh of relief: your estate plan is completed and you and your family can rest easier knowing you’ve planned for their future. 

Next week, we’ll discuss the final part of what to expect when creating an estate plan: planning and anticipating future changes down the road. If you have questions now that I can answer for you, don’t hesitate to reach out. As a Worcester, Mass Estate Planning Attorney, I assist clients every day with their estate plans. Call my office at 508.852.7800 or reach out via our contact form.

This week we continue the next part in our monthly May series, “What Happens When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan?” When we last left off, we talked about the essential components in an estate plan. Now, we’ll pick up talking about the second part of what to expect when you decide you need an estate plan.  

Part 2: What Happens When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan?
Typically, when you come to the conclusion that you need an estate plan, you set up a meeting. Your Worcester estate planning attorney will go through and ask what you’ve done so far. For example, do you have any of the aforementioned documents? If you do, what has changed since initial documents were created that now causes you to make changes? Then, a series of appropriate changes and decisions are made depending on your responses. 

Your attorney will sit down and go through your needs, explain all the documents, and depending on your comments, will obtain the necessary information to fill out the other forms. At the conclusion of the meeting, you’ll have an idea of what you need, what you need to go home and look for, and what documents are needed to accomplish the goals discussed in the meeting. 

Then, a follow-up meeting will be scheduled to complete and execute the documents. Before that meeting happens, your attorney’s office will send over the documents to review. You’ll want to make sure they honor the wishes you discussed during the initial meeting. 

Next week we’ll discuss: What Happens at the Execution Meeting. If you have questions now that I can answer for you, don’t hesitate to reach out. As a Worcester, Mass Estate Planning Attorney, I assist clients every day with their estate plans. Call my office at 508.852.7800 or reach out via our contact form.

You’ve been toying with the idea of creating an estate plan—but you haven’t moved forward yet. What’s stopping you? Many times, it’s the fear of the unknown. You don’t know what the process will be like or what to expect. 

That’s why throughout the entire month of May, I’m dedicating each week to educating you about the process of what to expect in our Estate Planning Series, “What Happens When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan?” 

Here’s a taste of what you can expect over the next few weeks: 

Week 1: What Happens When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan? (Part 1)
Week 2: What Happens When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan? (Part 2)
Week 3: What Happens at the Execution Meeting?
Week 4: What Changes Will You Need to Make? 

If you have any questions at all over the next few weeks, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at The Law Office of Jack Morrison at 508.852.7800 or reach out via our contact form. 

Week 1: What Happens When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan? (Part 1)
An estate plan is one of the most important things you will ever do to plan for your future. Basically, estate planning is a method to determine how you intend to use your assets today, tomorrow and when you die. It involves the property that you currently own and may acquire, the possible needs you may require if unable to care for yourself and the decision of where and who shall receive your assets when you die. 

Certain documents are required for an estate plan: 

  • Will
  • Healthcare Proxy
  • Power of Attorney
  • HIPAA Release
  • Declaration of Homestead
  • A Trust (if applicable)

These are the basic components. The importance of having these (or additional) documents depends on where you are in life and what your status is. But, whether you’re single, married, divorced, remarried or widowed, having an estate plan is important. For every stage of life. 

Stay tuned next week when we finish discussing what happens when you decide you need an estate plan. If you have questions now that I can answer for you, don’t hesitate to reach out. As a Worcester Estate Planning Lawyer, I assist clients every day with their estate plans. Call my office at 508.852.7800 or reach out via our contact form.

Do I REALLY Need an Estate Plan?

by Jack Morrison on May 5, 2011

Every day, Americans put off making decisions about their future. If you haven’t made a decision about whether or not you need an estate plan, what’s keeping you from moving forward? Cost…uncertainty about the process…fear of making difficult decisions…not knowing where to find a good estate planning attorney? 

Last month, we told you about a way to quickly and conveniently find out if you need help planning for your future. Have you requested your free 12-point checklist to see if you need an estate plan yet? It’s painless and takes less than 3 minutes to answer the “yes” or “no” questions. You have nothing to lose! 

Here’s some information to get you started:

 Sample Questions:

  • Do you have children under the age of 18? Yes or No
  • Do you have someone who can perform routine legal actions on your behalf? Yes or No
  • Do you want to make provisions in your will that when you die, your assets go to your children or your grandchildren and not your daughter-in-law, or son-in-law? Yes or No
  • Are you concerned that once you make your estate plan and have changes, those changes can be made cost effectively? Yes or No
  • Do you have children for whom you want to make special arrangements in the event you should die, but they can’t control the funds? Yes or No 

 3 Important Things You Need to Know
Here are three important things you should know before you request the checklist: 

1.       Who are you? My name is Jack Morrison and I am a licensed estate planning in Massachusetts. I have helped hundreds of clients plan for their—and their family’s—future.

2.       Who should take this? Massachusetts residents who have never had an estate plan created or who have an old, out-of-date plan.

3.       Why should I take this? The questions are very easy – you only have to answer “yes” or “no.” After you finish, you’ll email it to our office and a confidential, customized response will be sent back to you within 24 hours.

Ready to get started? All you need to do is call our office at 508.852.7800 and request a copy of your 12-point estate planning checklist. Or, email us at mel@jackmorrison.com and ask for your free 12-point checklist. 

Once you send in the report to us (by emailing it to jack@jackmorrison.com), you’ll get a confidential, customized response emailed back within 24 hours. 

Your future is important. As a Worcester estate planning attorney, I have seen too many people stuck in bad situations that would’ve been simply resolved with an estate plan. If you have any questions, call my office, the Law Office of Jack Morrison, a Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer, today at 508.852.7800 or reach out via our contact form.

Hunting for your homestead? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy—or fun—as hunting for candy-filled eggs. The older we get, we don’t have as much time to spend looking for hidden objects.  But this Easter, The Law Office of Jack Morrison is helping you get a JUMP on locating your homestead information. 

With a homestead, either you have it or you don’t. In light of the new 2011 Massachusetts Homestead Law changes, you might be wondering whether: 

  1. You have a homestead
  2. Your homestead is valid 

As we explained in last week’s blog post, a homestead is a law that gives protection from creditors (provided you own the home and it’s your primary residence). 

For our Easter promotion, we’ll do three things: 

  1. Check to see if a homestead was ever recorded and filed on your property
  2. Check to see if your homestead needs to be updated
  3. And, as a bonus, well give you a copy of what we find 

This egg-cellent promotion is yours FREE until April 27, 2011. 

If you don’t have a homestead and don’t know how to get one filed, we can help you with that. Or, if you’re interested in filing for the full $500,000 equity exemption, we can help you with that too. 

To get started, call the Law Office of Jack Morrison today at 508-852-7800. Or, email us here.

For more information on Jack Morrison, a Worcester Estate Planning Attorney, hop over to http://massestateplanninglawyer.com/.

You might have read about the recent 2011 Massachusetts Homestead Act that went into effect last month. If you’re a homeowner, the law is granting you expanded protection. A “homestead” is simply the name of the law that protects homeowners from losing their homes to creditors. As long as you occupy the property as your principal place of residence, you and your dependents are covered. 

As a homeowner, you absolutely need to have the homestead for estate planning and asset protection. Here is a breakdown of the top three takeaways you need to know about the 2011 MA Homestead Act changes: 

  1. With the new law, you get an automatic $125,000 equity exemption. To qualify for this, you must own a home and live in it as your primary residence. The new homestead law provides you with the automatic $125,000 without having to record anything. However, you can still get an enhanced exemption—$500,000—if you record the document.
  2. The biggest thing is that before the law changed, you had to file a document to get the $125,000 protection. Now, it’s automatic just by owning a home and deeming it as your primary residence. You don’t need to “record” your document.
  3. Here’s how the homestead law protects you: if you own property in Massachusetts and you reside in that property, you get protection from creditors (people you owe money to) to prevent them from forcing you to sell your home to pay off a debt. That’s REALLY what it this law is about. Let’s take an example:

Suppose you didn’t pay a credit card. The credit card company hired a collection agency, then an attorney to take you to court so they could put a lien on your property. What the homestead law does (if you have that homestead on your property) is prevent the creditor from forcing you to sell your home to pay off that debt. 

If you’re interested in filing for the full $500,000 equity exemption, call the Law Office of Jack Morrison today at 508-852-7800. Even if you just want more information on the Massachusetts Homestead Law, I can help you get started.

What Are You Going to Do with Your Tax Refund?

by Jack Morrison on April 7, 2011

You, like many other Americans out there, are eagerly awaiting the day your tax refund check comes in. According to CNNMoney.com, the expected average refund amount for 2011 is $2,753. And, a blogger at TurboTax estimates that over 82% of us will be receiving a refund. That’s good news, right? But before you start dreaming of splurging on a new fully equipped media room for the basement, stop and think. Are there better, more strategic items you should be spending your refund on? 

Here are some refund spending options that are worth a second thought: 

  • Keep your energy moving forward and put some money into your IRA, Roth, or SEP. Planning for retirement is always a good idea.
  • Investing into your home is never a bad way to go. You can complete a few minor home remodeling projects, or contribute to one big one.
  • Take a much-needed vacation. Although the dividends of choosing to get away may not pay off in the long run, it helps to take a break every now and then to refresh and reboot. 
  • Put the money towards finally creating your will and estate plan. While not as sexy as buying a new, fun toy or adding to your spring wardrobe, your future is never going to plan for itself. Planning for death is difficult, but you’ll breathe easier now knowing that you’ve taken care of your family.  

You deserve your refund; after all, it’s your hard-earned money that’s coming back your way. By spending the money wisely today, you’ll be ensuring you—and your family— are taken care of in the future. 

My name is Jack Morrison and I am a Worcester, Mass estate planning attorney. For more information on wills or estate planning, call our office today at 508-852-7800. I look forward to speaking with you.

When You Die, What’s Really Included In Your Estate?

by Jack Morrison on April 5, 2011

Estate planning can be a confusing topic for many people. Understanding the legalities behind your wishes, directives and requests can get overwhelming. But, it’s important to understand a few basic fundamentals. These will help guide you in your decision for how to move forward and create a solid, educated plan. 

For example, do you understand what’s really included in your estate at the time of your death? Whatever is “solely” in your name becomes part of your estate. This can include a checking account, savings account, CD, car, piece of real estate or stock portfolio. 

But what happens if someone else’s name is on these items as a “joint tenant?” Joint tenancy is when legal ownership of an asset is held by two or more people. The advantage of this is that when a person dies, a survivor has 100% total ownership. The asset passes to the survivor. 

Here is an example:

  • Say John Doe passed away and he had a checking account is in the name of “John Doe.” Then this goes to this estate. If John and Mary Doe own this checking account together as joint tenants, and John dies, the asset, the checking account, is 100% owned by Mary Doe and is not part of the estate.

Now, knowing this, does it affect your current assets and how you’ll plan for the future of your loved ones in the event of your death? Because there are some instances in when joint tenancy is not in your or your family’s best interests. 

My name is Jack Morrison and I am a MA estate planning attorney. For more information on wills or estate planning, call our office today at 508-852-7800. I look forward to speaking with you.