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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

Should you put your dog in your will?

As you create your will, you have a lot to think about. You need to consider all of your children, their children, your spouse, and exactly what you want to have done with major assets like the family home. As you do all of this, should you spend some time considering your dog? Does he need to be included in the will?

While what you do with your beloved pet is up to you, some strongly suggest adding your wishes to the will. This way, you know your pet will be loved and cared for after you are gone.

Using estate planning to reduce long-term tax burdens

While many people point to trusts as a way to shelter your assets from both taxes and creditors, the real truth is that overall estate planning and comprehensive financial strategy are the best way to reduce your tax burden. Estate planning goes hand-in-hand with financial planning, retirement saving and wealth building, making it a good idea to consult the right professionals on all these matters at an early age. No matter where you are in life, though, our firm can help you plan your estate to support the best financial benefits for yourself and your heirs.

One way to do this is to understand how estate taxes might play a role in your planning. Estate taxes can be levied by the federal government as well as the states. The federal government doesn't levy estate taxes on any estate worth less than $5.49 million, which means many people never have to worry about those taxes.

What do I have to do to probate an estate?

If you find yourself in the position of estate administrator for a friend or loved one who has passed on, you may not have a clue what duties are expected of you. That's quite understandable for those who have never before undertaken these tasks.

Naturally, the more vast the estate, the more complex the process will necessarily be. But even small estates can give administrators pause if they are unsure of the legal requirements.

Think about the various points necessary in your estate plan

Your estate plan is something that you need to make sure is fully prepared when you pass away. This doesn't mean that you can wait until you are at the end of the road to get things together. Instead, today is the best day to get your estate plan moving forward. We can help you learn about the options that you have for getting everything together.

One thing that your estate plan should include is your will. This document should include information about who is going to get the items that you have amassed during your life. It lets your heirs know your plans.

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.

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