Planning for Life

Case Illustrates, but Rejects, Doctrine of Merger in Trust Law

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 25, 2016

By Harry S. Margolis

In the case of Mond v. Pitts (Mass. App. Ct. 15-P-686, Aug. 19, 2016), the Massachusetts Appeals Court corrected an erroneous decision involving two trusts created by Lorenzo Pitts, Sr., who passed away in 2009. Lorenzo Sr. created the Esperanza Trust and the Fort Hill Trust, both of which held real estate in Roxbury. While the trusts had a second trustee and at one point the second trustee also owned 1% of one of the trusts, during his life, Lorenzo Sr. became the sole  trustee and sole lifetime beneficiary of both trusts. The trusts provided that at his death, "the beneficiaries shall be Lorenzo Pitts, Jr. and Robert Pitts, in equal shares." The trusts further directed that the trusts would terminate and that the property be sold and distributed "among the beneficiaries if living."

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Topics: Estate Planning, trusts

What's a Trust and Why are There So Many Different Kinds?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 18, 2016

By Harry S. Margolis

A trust is a legal entity that permits one or more people -- the "trustee" or "trustees" -- to manage property for the benefit of other people -- the "beneficiaries." The third actor in a trust is the person who creates it -- the "grantor" or "donor." To confuse things a bit further the same person can be a grantor, trustee and beneficiary, but he can't be the only one in all three roles. And the property in the trust can be just about anything you can own -- real estate, bank accounts, investments, or artwork.

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Topics: Estate Planning, special needs planning

5 Essential Estate Planning Documents and Why They Matter To You

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 26, 2016

According to LexisNexis, 60% of Americas think everyone should have an estate plan, but only 44% actually have any estate planning instrument in place, such as a will, trust or durable power of attorney. My guess is that at least half of the 44% with estate plans, has outdated documents that they may have put in place when their children were born and now 20, 30 or 40 years later their family and financial situations have changed entirely.

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Topics: Estate Planning

What does it mean to be an agent under a durable power of attorney in Massachusetts?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 14, 2016

By Harry S. Margolis

Have you been asked to serve as an agent (or "attorney-in-fact" to use the technical term) under a durable power of attorney in Massachusetts, but you're not totally sure about your duties and responsibilities? Then you're not alone.  Here's a primer.

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Topics: guardianship, durable power of attorney, trusts, Estate Planning

Funding Your Revocable Living Trust: Re-Titling Assets and Re-Naming Beneficiaries

Posted by Karen B. Mariscal on September 12, 2016

We see it all the time – people pay good money to set up a trust in order to avoid probate and minimize estate taxes, and then they fail to fund the trust. Without any assets in it, the trust will fulfill only some of its potential benefit.

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Topics: trusts, Estate Planning

How one couple prioritized conflicting estate planning goals

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 8, 2016

By Harry S. Margolis

My new clients were an older couple, the wife healthy and the husband, unfortunately, suffering from a progressive neurological disease which confined him to a wheelchair. He needed physical help at the start and end of each day and the level of help, and its cost, was likely to grow as his disease progressed. The couple had their main home in Massachusetts, plus a vacation home in New Hampshire. They had sufficient income and savings to cover their current living expenses, but they could be depleted if the husband needed extensive care over a long period of time. Much of their savings was in tax-deferred retirement accounts.

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Topics: Estate Planning, long-term care planning

Who Should Get Your Stuff When You Die? And Who Should Decide?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on August 26, 2016

By Harry S. Margolis

In the United States, we get to decide who gets our assets when we die, our children, our spouse, charities, or our hairdresser. The only exception is that absent a prenuptial agreement, spouses have the right to "elect against the will" to get at least a minimum inheritance. This "spousal share" in Massachusetts is relatively meager, $25,000 plus an income interest in half of the remaining estate if the decedent had no surviving children or grandchildren or an income interest in a third of the remaining estate if the deceased spouse did have surviving children or grandchildren. No one else has any rights to the estate at all.

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Topics: Estate Planning, will in massachusetts

Beta Test the Latest Innovation in Estate Planning

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 20, 2016

By Harry S. Margolis

Up until now, you've had two options for your estate planning: Go to a do-it-yourself site like LegalZoom or work with an attorney who will customize your plan to meet your circumstances. Most people are afraid to fly solo online and many feel that they do not need the one-on-one attention, or cost, of an attorney. That's why we are creating a third option.

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Topics: Estate Planning, will in massachusetts, trusts

10 Reasons to Review Your Estate Plan

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 13, 2016

By Harry S. Margolis

Estate planning attorneys always advise clients to review their estate plans every five to ten years, but who does that? Most people prepare an estate plan when they have children, again when they near retirement, and finally when and if they or a spouse becomes ill or begins to show signs of dementia. If you prepare and update your plan at these three junctures, you and your family will probably be in good shape. But if you don't, there's a strong likelihood that your documents will be out-of-date when needed, causing extra cost, delay and stress to your family.

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Topics: Estate Planning

Beware Your Old Bypass Trust

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 7, 2016

By Harry S. Margolis

Very few people need to worry about federal estate taxes today with the threshold for taxation now at $5.45 million (in 2016) and surviving spouses permitted to add on the unused portion of their deceased spouse's credit through "portability." Yet many people have estate tax planning trusts put in place when the threshold was much lower and before portability was enacted. As recently as 2003 the threshold was $1 million and before 1998 it was just $600,000.

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Topics: trusts, Estate Planning, capital gains taxes

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