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Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

Getting a grip on administering your late spouse's estate

When you are in the midst of your grief following a spouse's death, carrying out even the simplest of tasks can be too difficult. You might prefer to stay in bed all day mourning your loss. However, you may be the one tasked with the responsibility of administering the estate.

If you find yourself in this situation, the following tips can help you stay on track and manage the estate properly.

Why should I get my will notarized?

After a person dies, the will that he or she left will be put forward for probate so that the proceedings can begin. However, it cannot just be taken for granted that the will was written by the person in question. It must be "proved."

In this process, the witness of the will must be present to confirm that the will is valid and written by the person in question. The difficultly that can come about, especially in wills that were written a long time ago, is that it may be impossible to track down the witness, or the witness may have passed away him or herself.

Deciding the terms of your trust

The terms of a good trust are just as much about protecting your assets as they are about distributing them. Of course you want your children and grandchildren to be able to enjoy your hard-earned estate, but do you really want your 18-year-old grandchild to blow it all on a spring break getaway or on a bad investment that they will regret in years to come? Creating the terms of your trust is a way to instill some wisdom into your dependents, something that they will surely be thankful for in years to come.

Your options when it comes to distribution

It’s never too early to think about your estate plan

If you feel as though the years of retirement are far away, you might not have given your estate plan a second thought. But the fact is that whether you have created one or not, you already have an estate plan. This is because the state has general laws that will come into effect in the event of your death.

These laws, rather than the wishes that you might have expressed verbally to family members, are the rules that will govern the disposition of your estate. Therefore, it makes good sense to think about your estate plan as early as possible.

When is diminished capacity enough to invalidate a will?

When a person makes a will, it is assumed that he or she is mentally stable and capable enough to make the decisions required.

However, there can be cases where a person is not capable of making a rational decision. In these cases, they may make frivolous decisions or be very susceptible to other people's persuasions. In these instances, family members who want to protect the legitimacy of the will may want to take action so that the funds are used in an appropriate way.

Deep tax cuts proposed could affect estate planning

The current leaders of the House of Representatives are proposing some major tax cuts that could, if passed, affect both corporate and individual taxes.

The goal is to simultaneously grow the economy by making more jobs possible and letting workers keep more of their paychecks, while also making taxation fairer for everyone.

Passing on wealth to the next generation

As you watch your children grow and perhaps also have careers, partners and children of their own, it will likely become increasingly important to you that you take care of the wealth that you've acquired during your lifetime, so that you can pass it on to the next generation. One great way to do this is through a living trust, which is a more flexible alternative to a will.

Living trusts exist for the primary goal of the grantor wanting to pass on his or her wealth and assets to loved ones both after his or her death and during his or her lifetime. It can be preferable over a will because it carries with it a great deal more options. This includes the ability to avoid probate, which can be costly and can incur delays for the beneficiaries of the estate. Probates are also public, and choosing a trust can help keep the details private.

Ten tips to reduce estate taxes

It can be in your best interest to reduce the amount of taxes incurred by your estate. After all, who wouldn't want to pass as much of their estate along to their loved ones as possible?

To help you out, these are 10 tips for reducing estate taxes:

What are health care proxies?

When people are writing their wills or living trusts, they are wise to think about any possible scenario that might arise after their death or during their lifetime when they might become incapacitated or of ill health. They naturally will want to prepare as much as possible for all scenarios, so that they can be in control of their future and the future of their assets.

In fulfilling this goal of preparing for the future, powers of attorney are created for the purpose of guaranteeing proper health care. These are often referred to as "health care proxies," "health care surrogates" and "durable medical powers of attorneys."

How tax audits work in Massachusetts

If you have recently inherited part of an estate, you may feel burdened with the prospect of filing your estate taxes for the first time. You might also be worried about the likelihood of an audit being done, and would like to be as prepared as possible. The good news is that as long as you follow the tax procedure in Massachusetts systematically and carefully, you have no reason to worry about a tax audit and its consequences.

It is highly unlikely that you will be selected for an audit if you have been consistent in the information that you have provided to the Department of Revenue (DOR). However, some tax returns are selected randomly, so being selected does not necessarily mean that you have done anything wrong in your return.

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