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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

Oral wills in the state of Massachusetts

Wills can come in many different forms. They are most commonly written down and formally submitted during the lifetime of the willmaker. However, not everyone makes a will formally before the end of their life; therefore, in some limited circumstances in the state of Massachusetts, certain people can make an oral will before the end of their life.

Oral wills are when a person has not made a written will, but he or she wants to make the wishes that he or she has in regard to personal property clear. Often this can occur when a person is suffering from a sudden illness or crisis, and fears that he or she may pass away without having time to make a written will.

An overview of estate taxes in Massachusetts

When a loved one passes away, it is likely that you will need to go through the probate process, which includes paying any taxes owed in regard to the estate. The current Massachusetts estate law is applicable to estates owned by decadents who passed away in 2006 or later. When the value of an estate is $1,000,000 or lower, this amount is excluded from being taxable. For example, when an estate in Massachusetts is worth $1,100,000, only $100,000 of the estate will be taxable.

There are many different types of estate taxes, but there are also several tax exemptions which the estate in question might be eligible for. Therefore if you are leading the probate process for a love one's estate, it is important that you understand what exceptions and taxes are relevant.

The key trusts that you should be considering

When you start to plan your estate, it is likely that you will quickly become overwhelmed with all of the estate planning options available. It can seem near-impossible to figure out what trust or will solution will work best for you, since there are so many different factors to consider.

While it is important that you spend a good amount of time researching your options, we can break down some of the most popular types of trusts, how they work, and what situations they are best suited for.

Should you fund a spendthrift trust for your kids?

If you are a parent of an adult child who has proven to be inept at handling money, it can make your estate planning efforts especially challenging.

For instance, suppose your two adult sons have very different personalities. Your oldest son has always been the epitome of responsibility and displayed exemplary decision-making skills. He married soon after graduating from college, has a successful job and two adorable youngsters.

What's the role of powers of attorney fiduciary?

If you've begun the estate planning process, then you've likely heard the term "fiduciary" thrown about. This word can be used to describe the duty that either an institution or a person has to protect the interests of another with the utmost loyalty, trust and honesty. Some refer to this obligation as providing a "higher standard of care".

Many aspects of the estate planning and settlement process involve assigning someone else fiduciary duties. Those appointed to take on this role may be real estate or mortgage brokers, financial planners, attorneys, accountants or personal bankers. They even may be your family member or a trusted friend.

How does intestate law work in Massachusetts?

When a person does not make a will, or when a person's will cannot be legally validated, intestate law is the name for the procedure that is put in place in order to transfer the remaining estate to the appropriate beneficiaries. This can be very difficult to do, because the wishes of the deceased person are not known.

Therefore, intestate law has an answer for any possibility that could present itself in reality. If you have a loved one who died without making a will in Massachusetts, it is important that you understand how the intestacy laws will function based on their particular circumstances.

How inter vivos trusts work

An inter vivos trust is the formal term for what is commonly known as a living trust. A living trust means that you are able to place your assets in this trust, modify the contents of the trust, and if desired, revoke the trust during your lifetime.

In this way, living trusts are a very flexible and strategic way to manage your assets. Living trusts are advantageous to wills in the sense that they make it possible for a person's assets to avoid probate. Probate can be a costly and lengthy process; therefore, being able to avoid probate preserves assets for their intended beneficiaries.

The reasons why people choose to estate plan

If you have not started to plan your estate, you are putting yourself in a hole. This very well could be a hole that you never crawl out of, depending on your age or health. It is recommended that you start to plan your estate the minute you are hired for your first full-time job after school. Even if you aren't married. Even if you don't have children. It's still important to write down where you want your property to go upon your death.

An important reason why people plan their estate is to remove the fear they have about death. Now, they might still fear dying, but they won't have to worry about where money or other assets will end up after they are gone. It is all spelled out in the legal documents within the estate plan.

What should I consider when selecting a power of attorney?

A power of attorney (POA) is a document that should form part of your estate planning toolkit. There are many different types of them, each with different purposes. One may allow you to appoint another individual to handle your finances. Another may allow you a designee to make medical decisions for you.

In either one of these situations, the person appointed to be your POA is able to choose for you if you don't have the capacity to do so yourself. That being said, choosing the right person to appoint as your POA is not an easy feat.

How does divorce impact inheritance?

When a couple is married, it is taken for granted that in the event of the divorce, assets will be divided. However, in the process of filing for a divorce, the question of what happens to an inheritance fund becomes more murky.

Inheritances in general are considered as separate property. Therefore, when you create a will and state the beneficiary as a certain person, in general their spouse or divorcing spouse will never have a right to the inheritance assets.

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