By Nancy Brumback, Contributing Writer
Westborough??””It's never too early. It's only too late.” That's how attorney Carolyn Spring emphasizes the need to have basic estate plans in place before they are necessary.
Spring specializes in estate planning and elder law, which addresses estate planning issues of particular concern to older people. The Westborough attorney has been practicing in these fields for 25 years.
“A lot of families cannot come to an agreement right away when dealing with estate planning and elder law issues, and it can be reassuring to know that I'se seen their problems before. I can offer different options and spell out the consequences of each. Sometimes families just need an objective view of the situation,” she said.
Everyone, not just the elderly, needs basic estate planning, Spring said. That includes, at a minimum, a will, a health care proxy and a power of attorney. A will can detail who will inherit assets and, as important, provide for children under 18 by naming a guardian.
“It's important to review your estate plan when there are major changes in your life, including when you have a child, if you divorce or remarry, and if a spouse dies,” she noted.
As people get older, they need to take additional steps.
Spring recommends that, as people reach their 60s and 70s, they and their adult children talk to an elder law attorney. “Ideally, you get things done before the need arises, and then, when the time comes, the family can focus on care.”
The basic documents are crucial. A health care proxy names someone to make medical decisions if a person is incapable of doing so. “If you wait until someone is mentally incompetent, you have to go to court to appoint a guardian. That's a cost you don's need to bear.
“With a power of attorney, you name someone to take care of your financial affairs in the event you are not able to do so. It can be structured to go into effect if a doctor declares you incapacitated, or it can take effect earlier so someone can help pay bills and deal with other financial matters.”
In addition, older people need to take steps to protect their assets, by structuring a plan to distribute those assets as they would desire and to minimize any tax consequences, as well as to protect the family home. That plan can also deal with a person's assets to enable them to qualify for assistance to cover nursing home or assisted living care.
Spring suggests starting with a family consultation, either at her office or in a family member's home. “The initial consultation is free, to make sure the client and the family are comfortable working with me.
“At the end of that consultation, I can assess a family's needs and give them a ballpark estimate of the costs involved. No one likes to be surprised when it comes to money,” she said.
Spring encourages people to visit her website, www.cspringlaw.com, to review the services she can provide.
She volunteers at the Westborough and Grafton senior centers once a month, conducting free legal clinics by appointment, with a discount available if people then come to her for more detailed planning. She also has a program on legal issues, “Law for Your Life,” on the Westborough cable channel.
Spring's office is located at 1900 West Park Drive in Westborough.? For additional information or to schedule an appointment, visit the website www.cspringlaw.com or call 508-898-1835.