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Massachusetts Estate Planning Blog

Two actors whose deaths revealed grave estate planning errors

  • 23
  • January
    2015

The rich and famous have access to the best lawyers in the country, so it always comes as a surprise when celebrities end up having error-ridden estate plans. Here are two recent examples of this:

When Robin Williams passed away in August, he left behind three children. Williams’ estate plan included a trust for his three children, in effort to make sure that what he left for them and other sensitive information remained private. 

Why you should revisit your estate plan

  • 15
  • January
    2015

If you have already have an estate plan in place, that’s great. It means you have taken the time out of your busy life to plan for something we would all rather not think about: our eventual death. However, if it has been a few years since you put your estate plan in place, it might be time to revisit it.

That’s because your estate plan isn’t made to stand the test of time. Changes within your life and changes within the law can mean that your estate plan no longer works as you intended, and your carefully thought-out strategy can be completely derailed.

Here are a few examples of how that can happen.

Five financial issues to address in your estate plan

  • 07
  • January
    2015

Many people mistakenly believe that a will is all they need in their estate plan. However, there are many other issues that need to be addressed in order to make sure that you maximize the assets that you will pass down to your chosen beneficiaries.

Here is a brief overview of five issues that need to be considered to help you meet your estate planning goals:

Your will. A will is needed to make sure that your assets are transferred to the people or entities that you wish. Without a will your assets will transfer according to your state’s intestacy laws, which are applied when a person dies without a will.

Providing for a disabled family member easier with ABLE Act

  • 02
  • January
    2015

Special needs trusts are now not the only way assets can be saved for a disabled beneficiary while allowing the beneficiary to remain eligible for government assistance programs such as Social Security and Medicaid.

Last month, President Obama signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act into law, making it possible for individuals with disabilities to open special accounts where they can save up to $100,000 without the threat of losing eligibility for needs-based assistance programs.

The National Down Syndrome Society said the ABLE Act is the first time Congress has recognized through public policy the extra significant financial burdens individuals with disabilities face. 

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. 

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