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Wakefield Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

What is a spendthrift trust?

With trusts, there are many different options that are available and it is pivotal for those thinking about setting up a trust to find the path forward that they know will be most compatible with their unique circumstances. For example, you may be considering a spendthrift trust for various reasons. If so, it is pivotal to carefully review the ins and outs of this option and ensure that you make decisions which will protect your estate.

The Massachusetts Legislature states that spendthrift provisions restrain the involuntary and voluntary transfer of beneficiaries' interests. Some people may wonder why a trustor would decide to leave a beneficiary with property only to restrict that person from spending funds from the trust. However, there are various situations in which this may be necessary. For example, if a beneficiary has a problem with gambling and cannot control his or her money, spendthrift provisions may help prevent the beneficiary from making decisions that they will regret later on.

What does intestacy mean?

Whether you are having difficulty deciding which type of trust will serve your needs best or you have uncertainty about naming beneficiaries, the estate planning process can be complex. Moreover, there are certain key terms, such as intestacy, you may not be familiar with, which could have a significant impact on your property, depending on your circumstances. For example, those who do not have estate plans in place at the time of their death may have their property distributed in a way which would have gone against their wishes.

According to the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, assets belonging to a decedent's estate that are not addressed in an estate plan are distributed according to intestate succession laws. However, if certain assets are left out of a will but the will does prohibit a certain person from receiving property, that person will not be entitled to the property according to intestate succession laws.

What's involved in probate, and what isn't

If you are unfamiliar with the language of estate planning in Massachusetts, the thought of probate could seem overwhelming. However, it does not have to be. We at the Curley Law Firm often guide spouses, children and other family members through the legal process.

FindLaw explains that probate is simply the procedures necessary for taking care of your loved one's property. It includes the following:

  • Validating the will
  • Appointment of a personal representative
  • Inventory of assets
  • Payment of debts
  • Filing any tax returns required by the federal and state governments
  • Distribution of the remaining property to the beneficiaries listed in the will

Understanding the purpose of a life insurance policy

For busy Massachusetts families, often the last thing on their mind is the importance of having a life insurance policy in place. However, this optional investment can make a significant difference in the financial and emotional stability and health of dependents and other family members when a policy is obtained and secured. 

According to the Huffington Post, there are some important facts that individuals should be aware of when investigating the possibility of buying life insurance. These include the following:

  • Obtaining a policy takes time: Unlike other types of insurance that are relatively easy to buy in today's modern world, life insurance takes considerable time and thought. Often, providers require people to work directly with an agent for things like rates and quotes instead of providing them online. Interested buyers may also be required to complete a thorough medical examination.
  • Being proactive pays off: The earlier a person decides to invest in a term life insurance policy, the cheaper it will be. As a person's health declines, life circumstances change, dependents are added and aging occurs, policy holders may be required to pay substantially more.
  • Life insurance is valuable: Life insurance is not an investment that people immediately begin to see the benefit of. However, in the future it can be used for many reasons including funeral arrangements, paying off debt, replacing income, providing an inheritance and even paying for the college tuition of dependents.

How can I obtain an estate tax closing letter?

When it comes to estate taxes, many issues may need to be taken into consideration, even after a person has passed away. For example, if your spouse recently lost his or her life, you may not realize that you could still be able to benefit from estate tax planning. Families may also encounter other hardships after a loved one passes away, such as disputes over how assets are distributed or difficulties related to paying estate taxes. In Middlesex, and all across the state of Massachusetts, people may need estate tax closing letters to clear tax liens or close probate. If you need an estate tax closing letter, it is important to review the process of obtaining the letter.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the process for obtaining an estate tax closing letter depends on when the estate tax return was filed. If it was filed prior to June 1, 2015, closing letters were usually issued between four and six months after the return was filed, although it could take longer for returns that were reviewed. However, for an estate tax return filed after June 1, 2015, you will only be able to receive an estate tax closing letter by requesting one from the IRS.

Can beneficiaries contest a trust?

When it comes to trusts, all sorts of issues can arise. Sometimes, problems can wreak havoc after the person who created the trust passes away. For example, a beneficiary might attempt to contest a trust in Massachusetts. There are a number of reasons why a beneficiary may believe that a trust needs to be contested. For example, they could be convinced that the trustor, or the person who set up the trust, was subjected to undue influence. Or, they could think that the trustor was mentally incapacitated at the time they signed the trust. 

According to material that has been published by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, beneficiaries are able to contest a trust. However, beneficiaries who want to contest a trust must take action no later than 60 days after receiving a notice of the trust and the trust instrument or one year after the trustor passes away. If you are a beneficiary who believes that contesting a trust has become necessary, you should be aware of these time limitations and work through the process of contesting a trust in a timely fashion.

Essential medical legal documents

Most people do not like to be faced with reminders of their mortality, but the decisions that must be made in a medical emergency or at the end of a person's life can be made much simpler with some advance planning.

Here is a rundown of legal documents that people in Massachusetts may want to have handy when serious medical problems arise.

Handling an estate-related family dispute

Disputes involving estates take many forms, from accusations of a breach of fiduciary duties to will contests which claim that a will is not valid. Curley Law Firm knows the many ways in which these disputes can affect those involved and create lasting pain and hardships for families across the state of Massachusetts. If you are currently going through an estate dispute, it is important to take steps to minimize the potential impact of the dispute, if possible, while ensuring that your rights are not violated.

Sometimes, an executor is accused of breaching fiduciary duties. In some cases, these allegations are untruthful and may be the result of a beneficiary's disagreement with the way in which an executor wanted his or her property split up. Or, beneficiaries may believe that a will is invalid and worry that their loved one's estate will be distributed against their wishes. There are many different reasons why estate disputes arise and, sadly, they might become so serious that they tear a whole family apart.

Wills and naming beneficiaries

When it comes to estates, various questions may arise, from the early stages of planning until after one passes away. If you have decided that a will is the best way to protect your estate, it is essential to closely look over some of the different questions that you have or decisions that you could have to make. For example, you might have difficulty with naming beneficiaries. At Curley Law Firm, we know that it can be very hard to decide how to distribute your property among beneficiaries. However, it is pivotal for people in Middlesex and other Massachusetts cities to make sure that they work through this phase appropriately.

There are all sorts of factors that can come into play with regard to naming beneficiaries. From worrying about family disputes to taking into consideration the financial well-being and needs of loved ones, you may have to consider all sorts of different factors when you are trying to figure out how to distribute your property. Although this can be tough to work through and may generate strong emotions, it is crucial to handle this part of the process correctly.

What does federal gross estate mean?

With regard to estate taxes, there may be a number of questions on your mind. However, it is important to have a solid understanding of some of the basic terms if you are preparing to plan ahead and reduce or even get rid of estate taxes. If you live in Middlesex, or another city in Massachusetts, having familiarity with some of the basic estate tax terms, such as federal gross estate, can help you understand your situation better and make sure that you properly prepare for estate taxes.

According to the Department of Revenue, federal gross estate is the total dollar value of assets and property that a decedent owned in their name or jointly when they passed away. This property, which is outlined according to the Internal Revenue Code, may be personal or real, contingent or vested, or intangible or tangible. Moreover, it is vital to bear in mind that those who have over $1 million to their name at the moment of death are subjected to estate taxes. In some cases, such as those which involve significant gifts, estate taxes may kick in for someone who had much less when they passed away.