Planning During the Last Year of Your Life

Thanks to modern technology and medical advances, the chances of detection of a chronic illness are much greater than they were say in the 1970s; the likelihood of living a bit longer and enjoying that extra time also outweighs that of the past. So, why not make the most of the time you have left!

In a set of seminars this fall, which I am calling MAKING THE MOST OF THE LAST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE, I am inviting doctors, geriatric care managers and others in elder services to talk about the many things you may want to consider to make that last year as good as it can be. If you or someone you know (or their caregiver) is at that point in life, here are some legal tips you may want to consider:

  • Give things away. I often joke that, rather than give things away after you die, you should give things away now, so your friends and relatives can get to say thank you, and you can get to hear it. If your asset value is over $1 Million, you can also save on Massachusetts estate tax this way. There is no gift tax (unless you are giving and have given over $11.4 Million), and every dollar you give away, even if you do it the day before you die, will reduce your taxable estate, and therefore your estate tax, thereby reducing the amount you would otherwise inadvertently give to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
  • Structure things to avoid probate. Give your family a break, help them avoid the time and expense of the probate process, usually by making sure that any asset that would otherwise have to go through probate (your car, your house, bank accounts without a named death beneficiary) will instead pass directly to the people to whom you want to give them. You can typically do that by making sure the property is held jointly with the person to whom you want to give it, or by using a “payable on death” designation to name a beneficiary, or by putting the property into a revocable trust. If you have ever been on MassHealth, even if you are not on it now, structuring things this way can help you avoid any claim that MassHealth might have against your probate assets.
  • Have an appropriate Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney, so your wishes can be carried out no matter how you are feeling during that last year.
  • Have a MOLST (Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) form. Do you want to die at home? If so, make sure the MOLST directs that you not be taken to the hospital. Do you want artificial resuscitation? You get to decide, if it’s in the MOLST form.

Now go ahead, have that bowl of ice cream and the extra piece of chocolate cake. Live a little! If you need more information on this, you can contact me at (508) 860-1470 or You can also view my 10-minute Q&A Fireside Chats on Frank and Mary’s YouTube Channel, and find more in-depth commentary on legal issues on Mirick O’Connell’s Trusts and Estates blog, “Getting All Your ‘Docs’ in a Row.

About Arthur Bergeron

Art has been practicing law in Massachusetts for over 30 years. He focuses his practice on elder law, estate planning, probate and trust administration, and land use matters. Art counsels senior citizens and their loved ones regarding elder law and special needs planning, asset protection and Medicaid planning. He works with individuals in all areas of estate planning, including wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney, health care proxies and living wills.
This entry was posted in Elder Law, Estate Planning, Gifting, Probate, Trusts, Wills and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.