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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

What happens when you die without a will in Massachusetts?

Everyone needs to have a will drawn up, regardless of the size of their estate. However, every day Massachusetts residents die without wills, or intestate, which is the legal term when this occurs.

So what happens to the property of a resident of the Commonwealth who dies intestate? It depends.

Is probate of an estate always necessary?

Survivors and heirs are often gratified to learn that they don't have to submit to a lengthy probate process in order to take possession of the few assets that are in very small estates of their loved ones. For instance, a voluntary administration can be initiated even when the decedent died intestate, as long as the following conditions are met:

-- At least 30 days have passed since the decedent died.

The power of a power of attorney

When you are hale and hearty in the prime of your life, it can be difficult to imagine that one day your body and mind may become too debilitated to carry out your personal and business decisions.

Yet an accident or sudden, catastrophic illness can incapacitate anyone in the blink of an eye. Even if it doesn't hit like a bolt from the blue, diseases like Alzheimer's that cause dementia affect many Americans. In fact, the Alzheimer's Association reports that here in the United States, one out of every ninth senior citizen suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Inter vivos versus testamentary trusts: Which to choose?

Estate planning can be complex or simple, depending upon the individuals and assets involved. One option for preserving assets is an inter-vivos trust.

Inter vivos trusts are often called living trusts. The fiduciary relationship with the trustor begins when the trust is created. Assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries while the trustor is alive or after he or she is deceased.

GOP Congress plans repeal of estate tax law

The 2017 Congressional session could bring big changes to the federal estate tax laws on the books.

Under present laws, estates with values of $5.45 million or less carry no estate taxes. Those of more value, however, get taxed at 40 percent, according to the 2013 bipartisan compromise that avoided the fiscal cliff dive. GOP aides speculate that fully repealing the federal estate tax carries a $200 billion price tag spread out over a decade.

Leave the government out of your estate by gifting now

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to bypass the government and leave all of your estate to your heirs? Depending upon the size of your holdings, estate taxes can take a big bite out of the total.

However, with foresight and careful planning, there are perfectly legal ways to skirt the estate tax requirements without breaking any laws.

Do you need a special needs trust?

Parents of children with physical or mental disabilities often worry about what will happen to their children after they pass on. As it is the natural order that most parents predecease their children, this is a very valid concern.

Parents can put their minds at rest and secure their disabled children's futures with a special needs trust. Designed for those who are incapable of managing their own financial affairs, these trusts are managed by trustees for the beneficiaries.

It matters a great deal who is chosen to administer your estate

When it comes to choosing the executor for your will, it's important to realize that not everyone in your life will be temperamentally fit for the responsibility. While many — if not most — estates can be satisfactorily handled by laypersons with no formal legal training, there are some qualities estate administrators should possess, including:

-- Being dependable

Does your estate plan include your black sheep heir?

When parents have a substantial estate to leave to their heirs, they quite naturally want to structure their estate so that it isn't squandered. Sometimes this can be difficult when one or more of the children is financially irresponsible or somewhat of a "black sheep."

Parents' perceptions of their adult children's lifestyles are highly subjective, however. A child could be cast out of the family for something as banal as marrying someone of another race or faith. But other times, the rifts may run much deeper and be driven by unchecked substance abuse or a criminal lifestyle.

The different types of powers of attorney

This post will examine the different types of powers of attorney that clients may wish to include with their estate planning documents.

Powers of attorney allow another person, who is known as your attorney-in-fact, to act in your stead as a fiduciary of you, the principal.

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