Planning for Life

Case Shows Difficulty of Overturning Estate Plan for Lack of Capacity

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 19, 2021

By Harry S. Margolis


A case recently decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, Joseph A. Haddad vs. Marcel A. Haddad  (Mass. App. Ct. No. 19-P-1378, January 12, 2021), demonstrates the burden on parties challenging duly executed estate plans.

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Topics: incapacity, Estate Planning

Tony Hsieh: Tragically, Another Celebrity Without an Estate Plan

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 16, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Tony Hsieh, the founder of the online shoe company Zappos, tragically died in a house fire last month. And, like Aretha Franklin, Prince, James Gandolfini, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Whitney Houston before him, Hsieh, though estimated to have a net worth of $840 million, died without an estate plan (or one that was woefully out-of-date).


One answer is that the wealthy are no different from you and me, except that they have more money, or at least that's what one character said in the Hemingway story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro:"

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Topics: Estate Planning, will

New York Life Hierarchy of Financial Needs Shortchanges Estate Planning

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 22, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Taking a page from psychologist Abraham Maslow, who created the hierarchy of human needs above, the New York Life Insurance Company has created a new chart demonstrating the hierarchy of financial needs. It places estate planning at the very top of its pyramid, implying that it's unnecessary until you've satisfied your needs for retirement or earlier financial independence. This demonstrates an unfortunate lack of understanding of the role of estate planning.

Here's how New York ranks financial needs:

  1. Cash flow and basic needs. Just making sure you have enough income to pay your rent and daily expenses, including food.
  2. Financial safety. Having enough in savings to cover your expenses in the event of a job loss or illness. This can also include insurance both to cover health and disability expenses and life insurance to be able to take care of your family. New York Life estimates that less than half of Americans have this in place.
  3. Wealth accumulation. Only when you have the first two needs met can you begin to save money for retirement and future needs or desires.
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Topics: Estate Planning

Should You Use a Lawyer or Do It Yourself?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 17, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Do you have an estate plan? Is it up-to-date?

Why Most People Don't Have Estate Plans

While most people know estate planning is necessary and important, they put it off for a number of reasons, including the following:

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Topics: Estate Planning

Got Questions? We've Got Answers

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on May 12, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Did you know that we have a plethora of information about estate, long-term care, and special needs planning on our website? And it's in all sorts of formats depending on how you prefer to get your information and how in-depth you'd like to delve into a particular topic. We have articles, blog posts, legal guides, podcasts, and short instructive videos.

Here's a guide:


We have dozens of articles on topics as varied as "So, You've Been Appointed Trustee: What Now?" to Is Guardianship Necessary When a Child with Special Needs Turns 18? to "44 Questions to Ask a Nursing Home." Check them all out here.

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Topics: Estate Planning

Remote Notarization Law Now Available in Massachusetts

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 28, 2020

By Laura Goodman and Harry S. Margolis


Last week, the Massachusetts legislature (finally) passed legislation permitting the remote notarization and witnessing of legal documents during the pandemic—the 45th of 50 states to take this step, and Governor Baker signed the bill into law on Monday, April 27th.

Provisions and requirements of the Remote Notarization Law

While we can now execute wills and other documents remotely, the legislation doesn't make it easy. Here are its main provisions and requirements:

  • The law only lasts until three days after the end of the state of emergency, which is now May 18th.
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Topics: Estate Planning, coronavirus, document execution

Estate Planning in the Time of Coronavirus

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 14, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


As reported in The Sunday Boston Globe, the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic along with either isolation at home or the need for essential workers to go out and risk becoming infected has prompted many Massachusetts residents to consider planning estates for the first time or to complete plans they may have started but let slide several years ago.

We've seen this as well, especially among doctors and other health care professionals on the front line who feel an increased urgency to get their plans in place. The difficulty in these cases is witnessing and notarizing estate planning instruments while maintaining proper social distancing. I described how we've done this in an earlier blog post.

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Topics: Estate Planning, will, coronavirus, document execution

How Long Must Lawyers Hold Original Wills?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on March 10, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Most estate planning attorneys take on the responsibility of holding their clients' original wills and other documents. They do this for two reasons. First, they are often better equipped to keep the originals safe where they can be found when needed. Second, there's the hope that when the time comes, the client's family will return and engage the attorney or her firm to help probate the client's estate. Many law firms see their file cabinets as goldmines, or at least as insurance that they'll always have business in the future. This is especially the case, since many charge very low fees for preparing estate plans and higher fees for assisting with probate administration.

But this practice of holding original documents raises a number of questions that are seldom asked and answered. These include the following:

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Topics: Estate Planning, will in massachusetts

5 Common MassHealth Myths & Misconceptions

Posted by Patricia C. D'Agostino on February 18, 2020



With so much at stake, planning — and paying — for long-term care services such as assisted living or nursing home stays can be a confusing and anxiety-ridden process. Medicaid (known as MassHealth in Massachusetts) provides coverage for long-term care costs, including comprehensive coverage for skilled nursing home care and supplemental coverage for the cost of assisted living and home health care, but there are some common misconceptions about what MassHeath does and does not cover and who is eligible.

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Topics: nursing homes, MassHealth, Estate Planning, financial planning, Medicaid, MassHealth lien

Should There Be a Tax on Just 2,000 Estates Each Year?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 28, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


With the current federal estate tax threshold set at $11.58 million (over $23 million for a married couple) in 2020, fewer than 2,000 estates are expected to pay any tax this year. That's out of more than 2.8 million deaths, or approximately 0.07% of all estates. (The threshold for Massachusetts estates is $1 million.)

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Topics: Estate Planning, estate taxes, tax law

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