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Wakefield Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

Two fiduciary designations in case of incapacitation

When a person becomes incapacitated in Massachusetts, he or she may have identified a health care proxy to make medical decisions. However, this agent does not have the authority to make financial decisions and take care of assets.

According to the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, someone with a number of significant business interests or assets, or a large income, should choose someone to take over the specific activities related to these in the event of incapacitation. One option in Massachusetts is to appoint a conservator as a fiduciary. Another option is to create a power of attorney, which designates an attorney-in-fact to fill the role of fiduciary.

Entrepreneurs and estate planning

While every Massachusetts resident over the age of 18 should have an estate plan, there is even more reason for entrepreneurs to outline what should happen to their business assets after their death. One notable example is Prince.

In April of 2018, Forbes reported that though two years had passed since the death of Prince, world-renowned American musician, his family had yet to receive a cent from his estate. This is despite the fact that he was worth an estimated $200 million at the time of his death. So, why the delay? The talented musician allegedly failed to plan his estate or write a will. This is an issue because in the absence of estate planning, property previously owned by the deceased goes through a complicated process before distribution. This may take several years to resolve.

What is probate?

When it comes to wills and estates, there are always people talking about probate. Probate gets a bad connotation because so many people talk about instances where it takes a long time and causes a lot of disruption. In reality, this is not true of most cases. It greatly helps to understand a little more about probate, so if you have a loved one who's estate will go to probate, you will then know what to expect.

The American Bar Association defines probate as the legal process to validate a will or estate. It involves going to court. The court assigns the executor and oversees the legal handling of the deceased's assets to ensure the carrying out of his or her wishes.

What should you consider while making your health care directive?

When it comes to your health care, it is never too early to create a Massachusetts advance directive regarding the medical options you prefer. According to the American Bar Association, you should carefully consider each aspect of the directive before you put your health care choices in writing.

Your priorities and concerns will affect the outcome of these considerations as you prepare your advance health care plan.

Important facts for parental estates in blended families

There are certain cases where individuals may not follow the usual division of an estate. Those parties who are part of blended families, in particular, may embark upon unequal division of their estates.

Parents of blended families who are estate holders have a unique position and should handle it with care. Here are a few important facts about a parental estate in a blended family.

Information you should not include in your will

If you are ready to begin your estate plan, you may be thinking about who to name as beneficiaries in your will, and how you can divide assets fairly. However, not everything goes in a will. At Curley Law Firm LLP, our legal team assists people in identifying which assets to include in the will, and which may need to be addressed through other methods.

Joint tenancy property, which is any property that has a joint owner, will become your co-owner's property when you die, as FindLaw explains. For example, if you and your spouse own a home together, there is no need to put the house in the will. If you are not married and you want to leave your house to someone, you may have the option to add them as a joint owner and forgo mention of the property in the will.

What is the purpose of your life insurance policy?

If you are considering whether or not to implement a life insurance policy into your estate plan, you are probably busy comparing the pros and cons of your decision. While your investment in a policy would undoubtedly provide a measure of financial security for your loved ones in Massachusetts, there are many other valuable reasons why you may consider buying life insurance. 

According to Allstate Insurance Company, more than just another form of insurance, life insurance can be a strategic way to plan your finances in a way that will allow you and your surviving family members to get optimal use out of your financial assets. Some of the other advantages you may realize by having a life insurance policy include the following:

  • It may provide your surviving family members with the means to pay any estate taxes that you may have left behind, without having to stress about where the money will come from. 
  • If you have beneficiaries such as your spouse or dependent children, your investment into your life insurance policy can provide supplemental income that can be used for day-to-day living expenses or paying off debt.
  • Other costs related to your funeral, fees associated with the administration of your estate and even medical treatment leading up to your death can all be offset with the implementation of your life insurance policy. 

Lawsuit over Mockingbird stage production resolved

One important element to remember about estate planning is that it is rarely a singular process. Wakefield residents asked to serve as executors or personal representatives may be asked to continue to serve in (or return to) the roles over a period of months, years or even decades. This is especially true in cases involving intellectual and artistic assets, as the future use of those assets will have to be done with the permission (and at times, the oversight) of the estate. In certain cases, litigation may even result of an estate-protected element's representation. 

That is exactly what happened with the stage adaption of the iconic American novel . Famed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin was authorized by Harper Lee (the novel's author) to adapt the story to a Broadway script shortly before her death. Yet despite the novel tackling racial issues that remain relevant in today's world, its treatment of those issues reflects the attitudes of the time when Lee wrote the novel decades ago. Thus, reports say that Sorkin attempted to introduce more contemporary elements into the story. Representatives from Lee's estate, however, were concerned about how those changes would impact the perception of the novel's iconic characters. A lawsuit was filed objecting to the changes. After discussions, the estate agreed to drop many of its objections in return for some of new content to be removed. The producers of the play agreed, and the production is now set to begin its run on Broadway. 

What are the benefits of a testamentary irrevocable trust?

A testamentary irrevocable trust is a trust that a representative creates after the grantor's death based on the terms of the grantor's will. Because the only person who can change the terms upon which the trust is created is the creator him or herself, the trust becomes irrevocable. However, it is important to note that, contrary to popular belief, a grantor can change the terms of the trust during his or her lifetime. If you are beginning to plan your estate in Massachusetts, there are a few reasons you should consider using an irrevocable trust. 

According to The Motley Fool, an irrevocable trust has more than just a few distinct advantages. For one, this type of trust does not normally count toward the overall value of your estate. If you have a large estate with a value of more than $5.49 million, which is when the top estate tax rate of 40 percent kicks in, you may want to place certain assets into the trust. Doing so can "freeze" the value of those assets before they begin to rise and therefore reduce the tax burden on your heirs. 

3 common questions regarding estate taxes

There is one subject that can put a damper on estate planning: the concept of taxes. Estate taxes vary significantly from one state to the next, so you need to be certain you understand what you need to do when you live in Massachusetts. 

As you plan your estate, there are various actions you can take to pay as little as possible. You certainly want your loved ones to have as many of the assets you give them without giving too much to the state. People creating estate plans will naturally have many of these questions, and here are a few of the most common ones.