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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

Is it possible to refuse an inheritance?

When a person learns that they will be receiving some manner of inheritance from the estate of a loved one who recently passed, chances are good that they'll feel mixed emotions. On the one hand, they are likely still mourning the recent loss of their friend or family member and unconcerned with material things, while on the other hand that might be excited by the prospect of receiving some money and/or property.

While this is perfectly understandable, it's important for people in this scenario to know that they might feel another emotion: conflict. Indeed, while they might be honored that their loved one was kind enough to leave them a gift, they might also wonder if they would be better off without it.

What parents of disabled children should know about estate planning

As the parents of a disabled child, you naturally do everything in your power to ensure that they are not only provided for in every conceivable way, but also that their lives are both happy and fulfilling. While these efforts are to be commended, it's also important to remember that your parental duties extend beyond just the here and now.

Specifically, it's imperative for parents with disabled children to make sure that they have the necessary estate plan in place, as it can help ensure that their child's emotional, financial and medical needs will continue to be met in the event of their untimely demise.

Some important estate planning considerations for married same-sex couples

June 26, 2015 was a day of great celebration for LGBT couples across the nation and around the world, as the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its historic decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states in Obergefell v. Hodges.

While the decision will forever be cause for celebration, it's important for those same-sex couples who have since tied the knot not to overlook some important legal matters, including estate planning considerations.

How can I include health care matters in my estate plan? - II

In our last post, our blog spent some time discussing how a person's estate plan can't be considered truly complete until they have made the necessary arrangements for their medical care, something that can actually be accomplished relatively easily thanks in large part to Massachusetts's Health Care Proxy Law.

To recap, this law essentially authorizes all competent adults 18 and over to appoint a health care agent to make medical decisions on their behalf. In today's post, we'll continue this important discussion.

How can I include health care matters in my estate plan?

When it comes to the notion of having a comprehensive estate plan in place, it's important to understand that this means more than just accounting for all of your property and minimizing your tax liability. Indeed, it also includes making plans for your health care should a major medical event leave you incapacitated.  

While this may seem like it would be a complex legal undertaking, the reality is that it's actually relatively easy thanks to Massachusetts's Health Care Proxy Law, which authorizes all competent adults 18 and over to appoint what is known as a health care agent.

Understanding Massachusetts's estate tax filing requirements - II

Last week, our blog began discussing how the process surrounding Massachusetts's estate tax, which is levied on a deceased person's assets and collected prior to distribution of these assets, is rather time-sensitive. Specifically, we explored how the personal representative of an estate must file the Massachusetts Estate Tax Return, otherwise known as Form M-706, within nine months of the passing of the deceased.

From there, we discussed how the failure to file the Form M-706 and remit the necessary payment within this timeframe can result in everything from fines and the accumulation of interest to the imposition of liens.

Understanding Massachusetts's estate tax filing requirements

While the rather cynical quote attributed to Founding Father Benjamin Franklin regarding the certainty of death and taxes is incredibly popular -- it can be found emblazoned on everything from coffee cups to t-shirts -- it's also incredibly accurate nearly 200 years later.

Indeed, one needn't look any further than the code books here in Massachusetts, as our state levies an estate tax on a deceased person's assets before they can be distributed among heirs. Specifically, the person appointed to serve as the personal representative of an estate must file what is known a Massachusetts Estate Tax Return -- Form M-706 -- if the gross value of the estate exceeds the applicable exclusion amount in the Internal Revenue Code then in effect and make any necessary tax payment.

Should you keep your estate planning documents in the cloud?

Once a person has discussed, read through and appended their signature to their last estate planning document, they will likely shake hands with their attorney and depart the office with a rather thick file in hand. Their satisfaction with these efforts may prove to be short-lived, however, as they will be confronted with an important issue upon arriving home: where exactly this file should be located.   

While leaving it on a kitchen counter or coffee table is clearly not an option as it could easily get lost, there's also the possibility that putting it in a desk drawer could mean that anyone could access it or that if you get too clever, either you -- or your loved ones -- won't remember its location.

What happens when you die without a will in Massachusetts? - II

Last week, our blog started exploring how the intestate distribution scheme works here in Massachusetts in an attempt to encourage otherwise reluctant estate planners. Specifically, we theorized how learning more about how hard-earned assets could possibly be divided among undeserving family members -- or perhaps even the state -- might be the catalyst that propels people to finally take the necessary action.

To recap, when an individual passes without a will, state law dictates that there are five categories of heirs entitled to their assets, including 1) spouses, 2) descendants (children, stepchildren, etc.), 3) parents, 4) parent's descendants (siblings) and 5) next of kin.

Appointing a competent executor for your will

A last will is much more than simply a legal document that directs affected parties about what to do with your property when you pass away. It is also a declaration of your legacy and speaks volumes about your values and priorities to your heirs and beneficiaries. When setting out to write your last will, one of the most important steps in the process is choosing a qualified, competent executor.

The executor of a last will is often a trusted friend or family member, but the quality of your relationship with a person is not the only thing to consider when making this important choice. Simply because an individual is close to you or holds a prestigious position of some kind does not necessarily meant that he or she is the best candidate to be your will’s executor. While it is important to appoint someone who is trustworthy, it is also important that he or she has sufficient skills and knowledge to complete your wishes when the time comes. It is also wise to consider the how likely it is that you might outlive him or her, barring an unforeseen tragedy.

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