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Massachusetts Estate Planning Blog

What is probate and how do you avoid it?

  • 18
  • December
    2014

In the estate planning world, probate is sometimes referred to as a necessary evil. While the process can be long and costly, it is sometimes needed to make sure that an estate is divided how the decedent intended.

Essentially, probate manages the transferring of a person’s property upon his or her death according to the person’s last will and testament. But before the assets can be distributed, all of the assets have to be collected and certain debts have to paid off.  Any disputes that arise also have to be settled. 

How reproductive technology complicates the meaning of 'heir'

  • 11
  • December
    2014

In estate planning, we talk a lot about heirs. That’s because a huge part of estate planning has to do with establishing who will inherit a person’s assets upon his or her death and how those assets will be passed down from there.  

Decades ago, defining a person’s heirs was easy. Legally speaking, an “heir” refers to parties who will inherit based on the rules of descent and distribution. Historically, these individuals have been genetically, biologically or legally related to the person creating the estate plan -- such as children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on.

A trust is one way to protect inheritances during a divorce

  • 03
  • December
    2014

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal pointed out that Massachusetts is one of the country’s few “kitchen sink” states. No, that has nothing to do with cooking or even kitchens, for that matter; it has to do with how property is divided during a divorce.

As you probably already know, divorce involves dividing marital property between the two spouses. Kitchen sink states like Massachusetts typically do not differentiate between marital and separate property during a divorce like most other states do. Almost all property is considered part of the marital estate and subject to division.

What is an executor responsible for?

  • 25
  • November
    2014

If you know anything about estate planning, you have probably heard the term “executor” before. And you may even know that an executor is in charge of handling a person’s estate according to their last will and testament.

But you probably aren’t aware of the exact duties that the executor is responsible for, so we will outline them for you today. Generally speaking, an executor is charged with making sure that a person’s last wishes are honored and their debts are paid off. 

Are children entitled to an inheritance?

  • 19
  • November
    2014

This is a question that is frequently asked to estate planning lawyers, and the answer is no. Parents are not legally required to leave anything to their children.

If an unmarried parent dies without a will, the rules of intestacy would result in all of the parent’s assets being divided equally among the parent’s surviving children. (If the parent’s spouse is still alive, the assets would transfer to him or her.)

Coffee company at issue in bitter will dispute

  • 11
  • November
    2014

We often discuss the conflict that can arise between first and second families when a loved one dies and does not have an effective estate plan in place. But even with an estate plan, conflict can still erupt when the loved one made contradictory promises to members of both families.

In an example of this, when the owner of one of the largest privately owned coffee companies in the country died in 2009, his last will and testament left the coffee company and a 3,500-acre family farm to his second wife. 

When flexibility is key, consider a discretionary trust

  • 05
  • November
    2014

You don't know what the future holds. Nobody does.

When it comes to creating your Massachusetts estate plan, the uncertainties of life may be reason enough to consider a discretionary trust. This type of estate planning tool can give your chosen trustee much greater flexibility and freedom in distributing income to the beneficiaries.

 

What is a special needs trust?

  • 30
  • October
    2014

A special needs trust is a very effective estate planning tool for to provide economic security for individuals who are mentally or physically disabled. Essentially, creating a trust allows a trustee to oversee the beneficiary’s finances and the trust usually lasts until the beneficiary’s dies or the funds in the trust run out.

A special needs trust is set up to suit the individual needs of the beneficiary. Typically, the trustee uses the funds to pay for necessities and other expenditures for the beneficiary, which is helpful when the beneficiary is not able to manage his or her own finances. A trustee can be a trusted family member or a third party who is appointed by the court. 

Why to include funeral and burial wishes in your estate plan

  • 24
  • October
    2014

When most people think of estate planning, they think of creating wills and trusts in order to pass down assets upon death. However, effective estate planning involves much more than just distributing your assets upon death. It should also address many other important issues such as end of life care and funeral and burial wishes.

Discussing their own funeral is the last thing that most Massachusetts residents want to do, but as the tragic ordeal surrounding Casey Kasem’s death shows us, planning out these matters ahead of time can prevent serious conflict, especially when second families are involved. 

Five estate planning myths you may have fallen for

  • 23
  • October
    2014

Estate planning may be one of the most misunderstood areas of law, especially when it comes to trusts. Unfortunately, these misunderstandings can be very costly and can result in years of conflict, potentially tearing families apart. Here are five of the most common myths relating to trusts and estate planning. Have you fallen for any of them?

Myth No. 1: Only the wealthy need a trust. Many people think that they don’t need a trust if they aren’t wealthy, but this isn’t true. A trust can benefit any person who has property that they don’t want to go through a very public and expensive probate process.

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