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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

What happens when you die without a will in Massachusetts?

As we've made clear in previous posts, those who find themselves hesitant to undertake even the most basic estate planning, such as the execution of a simple will, should be aware that their property will not necessarily be distributed in accordance with their exact wishes.

As sobering as the reality of this news might be to some, it will likely be met with either misunderstanding or indifference by others. As such, it may be helpful to spend some time examining the intestate distribution scheme here in Massachusetts. 

On what grounds can you challenge a will?

A couple of months ago, we wrote a post about an estate that was challenged due to some irregularities with the will. Along with that post, we have talked extensively in the weeks since about wills and how they impact your estate, let alone the possible legal ramifications of a will should your heirs or beneficiaries challenge it. Which leads us to our question for today: on what grounds can someone challenge a will?

It's actually not as simple as it may seem. The first thing to realize is that most judges are unwilling to overturn the last wishes in a will and testament of a deceased person. However, if there is legitimate grounds for the will to be reviewed and possibly revised or struck down, then a challenge could work. In order to challenge the will, though, someone must have "standing."

Is a Totten trust right for your situation?

Ask any financial or legal professional to list the primary goals of estate planning and chances are very good that they'll put avoiding probate near the very top. This is largely because the probate process can prove to be highly time-consuming, very public and altogether costly.

Even though you are very likely on board with this idea of avoiding probate, it may nevertheless seem like it would require nothing short of a herculean effort. While it's true that avoiding probate does require sophisticated estate planning efforts, it's important to note that there are still smaller -- and easier -- steps that a person can take to work toward realizing this goal, including the formation of a Totten trust.

Committed to helping clients preserve assets for future generations

For the vast majority of people, the principal motivation for putting in long hours, fighting for promotions and keeping an eye out for new employment opportunities is providing for their family. Indeed, many of these hard-working individuals are savvy enough to recognize that they can continue to do this long after they've passed via estate planning.

While this recognition of the value of estate planning is to be commended, it's important to understand that the failure to execute the right type of estate plan can result in hard-earned assets being needlessly forfeited to both state and federal estate taxes.

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

In a series of posts, we've spent some time discussing how those who find themselves wanting to donate a sizeable sum to a preferred charitable organization while retaining some fiscal benefit and realizing some tax benefits may want to consider the creation of a charitable remainder trust.

To recap, a charitable remainder trust is created when the trustor transfers all the property or money they wish to give to a certain charity directly into the trust. Thereafter, the charity assumes the role of trustee, managing and safeguarding the trust funds, and paying a portion of the income generated by these trust funds to either the trustor or another named individual. Upon the death of the trustor, the charitable remainder trust terminates and the assets go directly to the charity.

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 motion...to 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.

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