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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

Do you know your responsibilities for estate tax planning?

Do you know your rights and responsibilities when it comes to planning for property taxes after death? Estate tax planning is not a minor issue. The fact is that too many Massachusetts residents' families suffer financial losses because benefactors do not properly prepare their estate before their departure. Knowing how much property you can exclude from the estate tax burden and figuring out how to maximize the amount your family is allowed to keep are key in promoting their financial success after your death.

Property transfer that occurs through an estate plan depends on an accurate valuation of a decedent's estate. If you do not know how much your property is worth, it is nearly impossible to tax. Massachusetts law requires beneficiaries to identify the "fair market value" for all property in the estate on the date of the decedent's death or within a six-month alternate valuation period. This information is critical for making sure that tax returns are filed legally within the state.

Keep the peace be establishing trusts for mineral rights

If your family owned land where there was oil or gas beneath the surface, no matter if the property changed hands numerous times, the mineral rights may be preserved for future generations.

This can be a very lucrative source of income for heirs, which is why many choose to include clauses in their wills stating that only the blood relatives could inherit these rights. The problem is, that may not be sufficient in some circumstances.

What are important qualities for powers of attorney to have?

Once you've made the decision to draft the basic estate planning documents, you may have some questions. For instance, what qualities should the person whom you designate as power of attorney have? Different people have different strengths and weaknesses, so keep in mind that you may want to designate two separate individuals as your legal and medical powers of attorney.

A legal power of attorney should likely have most of these characteristics:

30-somethings should get on board with estate planning

Estate planning attorneys often urge their 30-something clients to commit to at least the basics of a viable estate plan.

Especially for those with young children, it's urgent to make sure that if disaster strikes the primary wage-earner, the family is still protected. Below are the necessary documents every young professional needs to get drafted.

Will he or won't he? Trump and the repeal of the 'death tax'

Those in the estate-planning industry remain in the dark about President Trump's intentions regarding tax reform. It's likely that his policies will benefit the wealthiest citizens, as he repeatedly stated while campaigning for president that he planned to get rid of the "death tax."

That misnomer is actually called the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which passed in 2013 and extended the indexed individual exemption of $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples. At present, it is $5.45 million, affecting just a small percent of Americans. It generates revenues of approximately $20 billion per year.

Proper estate planning can prevent familial squabbles

Some may be surprised to learn that family members battling over estates don't always fight over large sums of money, property or expensive items. Often the most pitched battles deal instead with family heirlooms that have minimal value to anyone not emotionally tied to the decedent's possessions.

Sometimes the decedent is the one who sets the battle lines, albeit unwittingly. Wills that are so generic that they fail to specify which heir gets which heirloom can create a hostile atmosphere among siblings and other heirs.

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.

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