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Wakefield Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

When life gets in the way of estate planning

On a daily basis, many people experience high levels of stress, uncertainty and negative emotions. There are many reasons why these challenges arise, from a complicated divorce to problems at work and the consequences of an injury. Unfortunately, this can hold people back in other ways and may cause them to push off crucial estate planning responsibilities that need to be taken care of. For example, someone may postpone setting up an estate plan because of hardships they are facing, or they may neglect to revise their estate plan even though critical changes are necessary.

After a bitter divorce or the loss of a primary source of income, some people may feel too overwhelmed and even tired to take a second look at their will or trust. In the wake of such crucial changes, revising an estate plan is often essential, and it is vital for people to find the time and energy to take care of these responsibilities. Although it may seem tough at times, knowing that you have taken care of your estate can provide a great deal of relief.

Detailing Massachusetts' intestate succession guidelines

If you have a loved one who recently passed away in Wakefield, then you and others who were close to them may be justly concerned about how their estates will be handled. Given a majority of American adults do not have a will, then there is a strong possibility that no provisions are in place dictating how your deceased family member or friend's assets are to be distributed. Many come to us here at the Curley Law Firm LLP in the same situation thinking that when one dies without a will, their descendants are free to determine how their estate is to be handled. Unfortunately, that is not the case. 

When one dies without a will, they are classified as "intestate." Massachusetts' intestate succession guidelines can be found in Chapter 190B Article II of the state's General Laws. Here, it states that is you are the surviving spouse of an intestate decedent, you are entitled to all of their estate if they have no surviving descendants, or if their descendants are also your children (or grandchildren). If your deceased spouse has no descendants but is survived by their parents, you are entitled to the first $200,000 of their estate plus 75 percent of the remaining balance. That amount reduces to the first $100,000 plus 50 percent of the gross estate if either you or your deceased spouse has descendants that are not related to you both. 

Guardianship for a mentally ill adult

Guardianship is ideal for many people, such as minor children who are in need of an adult to take care of them and people who have become incapacitated due to age or for another reason. However, mental illness is another reason why some people are in need of guardianship, and we will explore a number of issues related to this topic. Whether you have an adult child who is struggling with a mental illness or someone else in your family is mentally ill, it might be a good idea for you to examine some of the potential benefits of guardianship.

There are a number of mental illnesses that people may struggle with, and some can leave an otherwise healthy adult unable to take care of themselves. We understand the amount of strain that this can place on a family, and it can be very difficult for some people to figure out how to handle this situation. Moreover, it can be incredibly emotional. Fortunately, guardianship is one option for many families, and this has helped some people who are struggling with a mental illness tremendously.

What to do if you cannot find a parent's will

After writing a will, it is critical to store it in a place that is easily accessible to all relevant parties. A copy should remain at home, and the person's attorney should also retain a copy. 

It feels frustrating when a parent goes through all the trouble to make a will and no affected parties can locate it. Many people do not think about this practical manner when it comes to estate planning, but it is essential to make things easier during an already difficult time. For loved ones, here are steps to take when a deceased person's will is nowhere around. 

Stress over setting up an estate plan

Estate planning can offer a number of benefits, many of which have been discussed on this blog. For some people, however, creating an estate plan can also result in stress. For example, some people may be unfamiliar with the steps that will need to be taken when creating an estate plan, and others may be unsure of which estate plan will serve them best and how to divide their assets among loved ones. These are just some of the estate planning matters that can generate stress, but tackling these concerns appropriately can reduce negative feelings and even lead to a sense of relief.

When it comes to stress and estate planning, there are various topics to consider. Some people have additional stress because they made the decision to set up an estate plan after a divorce or health scare that has made them realize how important it is to ensure that property will be handled properly should they pass away. Others may be facing difficulties at work or going through other challenges in life that can interfere with their ability to focus on an estate plan.

2 key methods of reducing estate tax

When you work on your Massachusetts estate plan, you may do so with the intention of leaving as much of what you have behind for your family or loved ones as possible, but estate taxes can throw a wrench in the works. Depending on where, exactly, you live, estate taxes can take up a substantial portion of your legacy, which can significantly reduce the amount you have to leave behind for your loved ones. At Curley Law Firm LLP, we recognize that lowering your estate tax burden is an effective method of maximizing your wealth, and we have helped many people accomplish this and similar estate planning objectives.

According to U.S. News & World Report, there are several key steps you can take that can effectively reduce the amount the government will take from your estate. Arguably one of the easiest methods of reducing estate tax simply involves starting to make distributions to heirs now, before you pass away. By doing so, you are reducing the overall value of your estate and in doing so, lowering the amount of tax assessed against it.

Differences between heirs and beneficiaries

In Massachusetts state law, there is a distinct difference between heirs and beneficiaries. Though both are involved with the property left behind by a loved one after their passing, the way they are treated by the law isn't the same.

Cambridge Dictionary states that a beneficiary is someone who has been given something by a deceased individual. This broad definition covers everything from inheriting money to actual property, along with heirlooms or even personal items like photographs, clothing, books, and other belongings. Most people are referring to money, houses, or other "big ticket" items when discussing property, however.

Will I inherit my parents’ debts?

If your parents have a lot of debt, you have probably wondered if you will inherit this in Massachusetts. The complicated answer is that it all depends. There are a lot of procedures and laws behind how creditors make their claims and what the government allows them to take.

This can be a frustrating and stressful addition to the already difficult process of recovering from the loss of your parents. Here are a few things you should know that may help to provide some clarity.

What can I do to protect myself from an abusive guardianship?

Massachusetts residents should be aware of abuses taking place under guardianship and conservatorship arrangements. You may think you are unlikely to find yourself in this situation. However, according to Forbes, roughly 1 million to 2 million people in America are under conservatorship or guardianship.

These ideally provide protection for older adults, but far too often, guardians exploit their power. Here are a few steps you can take which may prevent the likelihood of this happening to you.

Times to update your estate plan

Many people assume you need to create a will, trust and everything else associated with an estate plan when you are older. However, people in their 20s really need to have an estate plan just in case. 

There are times in life when it is good to create your estate plan. Most people craft a will shortly after marriage or when they come into significant assets. However, you do not want your estate plan to stay the same for decades. There are times in life when you will need to update it, and these are the most common life events to do so.