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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

Don't overlook a crucial element of your estate plan

If you've taken the time to meet with a legal professional to discuss your estate planning goals and execute a strategy designed to realize these goals -- perhaps creating both a will and living trust -- you should take a moment to congratulate yourself for a job well done.

After all, you were able to accomplish what an astounding number of Americans can't owing to everything from their fear of discussing their own mortality to their inability to find time in their busy schedules.

Do you want charitable giving to be part of your estate plan? - II

In our last post, we discussed how those looking to leave a not insubstantial amount to a favorite cause or charitable organization should consider executing what is known as a charitable trust, an estate planning mechanism that can help them both accomplish their objectives and realize substantial tax savings.

We'll continue this discussion in today's post, exploring some of the major tax benefits provided by charitable remainder trusts.

Do you want charitable giving to be part of your estate plan?

When it comes to the idea of setting aside some of your hard-earned funds for a favorite charity in your estate plan, you may experience some degree of uncertainty. For example, you may worry that any decently sized amount of money set aside for charity would inevitably be consumed by taxes and also function as some sort of disservice to your heirs over the long run.

While these concerns are understandable, they are also somewhat misplaced. Indeed, the estate planning mechanism of a charitable trust -- specifically a charitable remainder trust -- can help a person donate generously while providing their heirs with considerable tax benefits.

Important considerations for those mulling unequal distributions among heirs

The idea of sitting down to execute a comprehensive estate plan can understandably prove to be a somewhat daunting proposition to many people. That's because it not only forces them to take a serious look at their assets and liabilities, but also address the prospect of their own mortality.

As much as this is the case under normal circumstances, consider how much more difficult the process can prove to be if a person is seriously considering making an unequal distributions among their heirs.   

Without a will, it could take years to settle Prince's estate

Last Thursday, people in Massachusetts and around the world were stunned and saddened to learn that Prince died. The prolific singer, songwriter, producer and performer was just 57 years old and police in his hometown of Minneapolis continue to investigate what factors may have contributed to his untimely death. Earlier this week, the public learned more shocking news related to Prince's passing when his sister, Tyka Nelson, "filed an emergency have a special administrator appointed to gather and protect his assets." Nelson's motion was in response to her assertion that her late-brother had no will or other known estate planning documents.

Prince's talent and appeal were undeniable and he fought hard to maintain ownership and control over the music he made as well as his private life and public image. In the days following the singer's death, words such as enigmatic, shy and private have been used to describe the man that, despite his superstardom, largely remained a mystery. However, given the fact that Prince appears to have died without a will, numerous details about the singer's personal wealth, debts and business dealings are likely to become part of the public record as his estate goes through probate.

In a committed relationship, but not married? Estate planning documents you need

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, today men and women are waiting longer to marry and some are foregoing marriage altogether and opting instead to remain in long-term and committed relationships. In cases where one individual in a committed relationship is involved in a serious car accident or passes away suddenly, his or her partner may have few to no legal rights with regard to making important medical decisions or inheriting personal belongings or assets.

To prevent these types of nightmare scenarios, unmarried couples would be wise to meet with an estate planning attorney who can assist in preparing the documents needed to help provide for a partner financially and grant a partner power to make or be involved in medical decisions.

Judge awards sisters $548M in estate dispute against brothers

We’ve previously discussed some of the estate planning challenges that parents with more than one child face when it comes to inheritance matters. Often, parents wish to be as fair and equitable as possible when leaving assets, property and personal belongings to children. In cases where parents fail to ensure that their wishes to provide equally for all children are concise and clearly laid out in estate planning documents, arguments and disputes between siblings are likely to erupt.

An extreme example of just how messy estate disputes can become involves the multi-million dollar estate of John Griffin, the late founder of Griffin Industries. According to court documents, Griffin and his wife were survived in death by 11 children. At the time of Mr. Griffin’s death, three of his sons allegedly took action to take over property that was intended to be divided among the siblings—a move that allowed the brothers to then sell Griffin Industries for $840 million.

Why it's crucial to plan for long-term care needs

While we all know that aging is often accompanied by declining physical and mental health and capacity, most Americans fail to take steps to plan for long-term care needs. This is particularly problematic when you consider that, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70 percent of individuals who turn age 65 will require some form of long-term care.

This statistic is further complicated by the soaring costs for both in-home assisted and residential nursing home care. Government statistics show that long-term care costs in Massachusetts are among the highest in the nation and individuals in need of home health aide care can expect to pay between $50,222 and $57,200 each year while the annual costs for a private room in a skilled nursing home currently run between $102,049 and $255,891.

Why it's important to have a conversation about estate planning now

For better or worse, dynamics within families are often complex. For aging parents; a desire to leave possessions, real estate and assets to adult children may create unexpected tensions between both parents and adult children and between siblings. To mitigate possible conflicts, parents are advised to establish and regularly upon an estate plan which may include a number of estate planning tools to accomplish several related goals.

A 2015 study by HSBC revealed that roughly 56 percent of U.S. adults who are over the age of 65 plan to “leave an inheritance with the average amount of $176,814.” Additionally, 10 percent of retirees reported that they are providing financial support to “at least one adult child.” Combined, these factors indicate that a tremendous amount of wealth is currently and is expected to be transferred to the next generation.

It's time to start talking to aging parents about their estate planning

Many individuals who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s may have concerns about their aging parents' health and general wellbeing. While completely normal, too often adult children fail to voice their concerns directly with a parent until a major health or life event occurs which forces the conversation or a major decision. 

Even as an adult, an individual may feel uncomfortable discussing financial matters with his or her parents. This is often especially true in families where money has always been a taboo subject. While it can be uncomfortable, individuals with aging parents are advised to take action and muster up the courage to discuss their parents' current estate plan as well as each parent's wishes and plans for the future. 

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