Planning for Life

Can an On-Line Note Serve as a Will?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 25, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

iStock-697091296

What constitutes a will? According to Massachusetts law, which is similar to the law in all states, wills must be in writing and signed by the "testator" and two witnesses.

However, the law also permits other writings to serve if the:

Intent that the document constitute the testator's will can be established by extrinsic evidence.

This means that a separate writing that does not meet all of the traditional requirements of a will may be admitted as a will by the probate court.

Read More

Topics: will, will in massachusetts

Why Didn't Aretha Have a Will?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 18, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

iStock-486812383

Aretha Franklin was a star and a wise businesswoman. According to her obituary, she demanded payment up front before she performed. She is reported to have died with an estate worth $80 million.

Yet, she had no estate plan. When one of my clients sent me an email asking me why, I turned the question back to her and she responded:

I think that she has some shady lawyers, accountants, and other random business people around her who did not serve her well.

Read More

Topics: will, Estate Planning

To Issue or Children -- An "Issue" of Interpretation

Posted by Alison Blum on September 11, 2018

By Alison Blum

iStock-974713930

In 1960, Elizabeth S. Payson executed a will leaving her estate first in trust for her husband and then in trust for the benefit of her daughter, also named Elizabeth. (For purposes of clarity, we''ll refer to the mother as Ms. Payson and the daughter as Elizabeth.) The will directed that after Elizabeth’s death, the net income from a trust should be distributed to Elizabeth’s children (Ms. Payson's grandchildren), until the youngest of these children turned 21. After Elizabeth’s children reached the age of 21, the principal of the trust was to be distributed to Elizabeth’s issue in equal shares.

Read More

Topics: will, trusts, issue

If You Live Part of the Year Out-of-State, Do You Need Estate Planning Documents for that State Too?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 4, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

 Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 12.03.45 PM

If you spend the summer in New Hampshire, or somewhere else cool, or the winter in Florida, or somewhere else warm, do you need separate estate planning documents for each state?

Legally, no. Practically, perhaps.

Read More

Topics: health care proxy, will, durable power of attorney

Why Would Anyone Do Estate Planning? A Lot of Bang for the Buck

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 24, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 12.43.15 PM

Why would anyone want to partake in estate planning? It takes time. You have to deal with lawyers. And to talk about your death or disability. It may bring up contentious issues with a spouse or children. It's not urgent, since nothing is likely to happen to you tomorrow, or even in the next few years. It costs money.

So, why should you take time out of your busy life to commit to estate planning? The answer is that there are few other simple steps you can take that will could have as great an impact on your family's welfare. The cost-benefit trade off is tremendous.

Read More

Topics: will, health care proxy, durable power of attorney, HIPAA release, revocable trust

Does Contested Language Create a Life Estate in Land?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on May 29, 2018

 By Harry S. Margolis

iStock-481265540

A recent Texas case, Knopf v. Gray LLC (Texas Sup. Ct. No. 17-0262, March 23, 2018), demonstrates how courts interpret unclear language in wills. In this case, Vada Wallace Allen gave her son, Robert Gray, 316 acres of land in Robertson County, Texas, under the following wording:

NOW BOBBY I leave the rest to you, everything, certificates of deposit, land, cattle and machinery, Understand the land is not to be sold but passed on down to your children, ANNETTE KNOPF, ALLISON KILWAY, AND STANLEY GRAY. TAKE CARE OF IT AND TRY TO BE HAPPY.

Robert Gray subsequently sold the land to Polasek Farms and two of his children, Annette Knopf and Stanley Gray, sued arguing that all their father could sell was his lifetime interest in the property.

Read More

Topics: will

What's It Like to Meet with an Attorney to Do Your Estate Plan?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on May 15, 2018

 By Harry S. Margolis

iStock-610119412

Financial columnist John Schwartz reports in The New York Times on his and his wife's experience in getting their estate plan done, and it doesn't sound too terrible. At first, he checked out a number of on-line will programs, which he felt could work for anyone with a straightforward situation, as long as they at least consult with an attorney to make sure anything they don't know won't come back to bite them or their families.

Read More

Topics: will

Bloom and Margolies, No That's Not a Typo

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on May 8, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

iStock-675066568

As reported in The New York Times, Sylvia Bloom spent 67 years working as a legal secretary in New York City at the international law firm, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. She retired at age 96 and died soon thereafter in 2016 with an estate of nearly $9 million. She had no children, and her estate gave $6.24 to the Henry Street Settlement in the Lower East Side, the biggest single gift the social service agency has received in its 125-year history.

Read More

Topics: will

Subscribe to New Blog Posts

Recent Posts

Most Popular Posts

Posts by Topic

see all