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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

Options for protecting inherited IRA assets

For many people, saving for retirement is a chief and ongoing concern. In addition to a 401k, a Roth IRA is among the most common and beneficial financial vehicles used to save for retirement. A Roth IRA provides not only tax-savings benefits, but there are also no mandatory withdrawals which means that an individual can continue to contribute to and reap the benefits associated with estate tax savings and compounding interest.

In cases where an individual dies and contributed to and allowed assets held in a Roth IRA to grow for several years, the beneficiary named on the account is likely to inherit a considerable amount of assets. Unfortunately, while a spouse who inherits a Roth IRA is allowed to "roll the inherited IRA into their own," this benefit doesn't extend to an account holder's children.

What information should I discuss with my estate planning attorney?

By now, readers of this blog likely understand the valuable role that an estate planning attorney can play in helping you discover and achieve your estate planning goals. Still, the thought of actually sitting down with an attorney and discussing some of the most private details of your life can be daunting. To help prepare for and make the most of a first meeting with your attorney, it’s wise to do some prep work.

In order to gain a better understanding of your current and future estate planning priorities, an attorney will want to know details about your family, financial standing and plans for the future. Therefore, you should be prepared to answer detailed and somewhat intimate questions related to your marital status, children, finances and assets. When discussing matters related to a living will and long-term care, an attorney will also likely ask questions about how you want to live out your golden years and what types of medical interventions you agree and disagree with.

Important goal in estate planning: reduce estate tax liability

Putting together a comprehensive estate plan involves a variety of considerations and potential goals. These can include leaving behind property for surviving family members, ensuring sound succession of leadership for a family business, giving to charity, and ensuring there is enough money to pay off creditors.

Another important goal for those engaging in estate planning is to reduce tax liability where possible. Estate and inheritance taxes are levied at both the federal and state level. Right now, the federal estate tax exemption is at 5.45 million, so that individuals may leave that amount of property behind without incurring federal estate taxes. That doesn’t mean, of course, that those with less than this amount need not worry about tax planning, since they may also wish to help loved ones avoid their own tax liabilities down the road.

Devising a plan to avoid the probate process

Even if you're not entirely sure what the process entails, it's likely that you've at least heard the term probate and may even know that it's something that many people take steps to avoid. According to the American Bar Association, probate is "the formal legal process that gives recognition to a will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate." The probate process is notoriously complex, lengthy and costly. What's more, probate records are public which means that anyone can gain access to information related to the value of assets and an overall estate.

Many people who have taken the time to draft a will are surprised to learn that their estate must still go through probate. For individuals who wish to avoid the probate process, and the many headaches which often accompany it, an attorney who handles estate planning matters can assist.

Why a will probably isn’t enough

When most people think about creating an estate plan they think about drafting a will. A last will and testament is a legal document that is used to establish your wishes and how you want your legacy to be passed down to heirs and beneficiaries after you pass away. A will can address important issues such as who should have guardianship of your minor children if you and the other parent are no longer able to care for them yourselves.

But a will may not be enough to fully accomplish your goals. That's where a revocable trust comes in. A revocable trust is often used instead of or in addition to a will because it can accomplish the same things as a will plus much more.

4 reasons to tell your kids about your will before its read

Family is the subject of the season. It is a time for getting together and celebrating the blessings we have in life. Watching your children succeed in life is one of the greatest joys anyone can experience. Of course, you were there to support them along the way.

As a parent, you want to continue to help your children long after you are gone. You want it to be fair for each of them, which is why you put extensive thought into your estate and had an attorney draft each word carefully.

Estate planning mistakes to avoid

Many of us know the importance of having an estate plan. Your estate plan can address many issues, and protect your family and preserve your assets. Despite planning for the future, mistakes in your estate plan can cause a lot of headaches in the future, as well as fail to protect your loved ones. 

Working with an attorney can help protect your estate. An attorney can review your estate plan and make sure everything is up-to-date and accurate. You should review your estate plan any time your family changes or at least every couple of years to keep yourself and your family protected.

Do you have a child with special needs?

When it comes to estate planning matters, most parents share a goal of leaving assets to their child or children. In most cases, however, an inheritance is viewed as a means to help out adult children who are likely working and living independently and may even having families of their own. For a child with special needs, however, many parents often remain caretakers long after a child reaches adulthood.

Whether a child's disability is physical or cognitive in nature, there are many reasons why he or she may require assistance and parents often worry about a child's wellbeing and care after they are gone. For parents in this situation, a special needs trust is often a good option.

What happens to your online accounts after you die?

Many people don't stop to count or think about the number of online accounts they actually have. In addition to using the Internet to access banking and investment accounts you may also have one or more social media accounts, a music library you've built over the course of years and a site where you login to view and manage your frequent flyer miles.

Now think about this; if you were to die tomorrow, would your loved one's know about all of your online accounts, how to access the accounts and what your wishes are with regard to these accounts? If you answered no, you're not alone. The future of online and digital accounts is something that most people neglect to plan for when establishing an estate plan.

The repercussions of dying intestate or without a will

Yes it's normal; most people simply don't like to contemplate their own mortality. But the reality is that things happen and what would happen if you suffered a heart attack or were involved in a serious car accident and died tomorrow? Have you taken steps to establish a will or trust and provide for your loved ones?

Let's say that you don't have any type of estate plan. You may reason that your family will be fine as your assets and belongings will simply pass to your spouse or children. While technically this is true, when an individual dies intestate or without a will an estate must go through a lengthy and often costly probate process through which assets, property and personal belongings are distributed in accordance with a state’s succession laws. In the interim, one's spouse and children may be in desperate need of financial assistance to which they won't have access until the courts settle an estate.

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