Planning for Life

What Can Non-U.S. Citizen Spouse Do to Avoid MA Estate Tax?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 29, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


If you or your spouse (or both) are not U.S. citizens and you live in Massachusetts with a total combined estate of more than $1 million, your estate tax planning could get complicated. This is in large part because non-U.S. citizens are not eligible for the marital deduction which permits unlimited tax free gifts between spouses whether during life or at death.

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Topics: Massachusetts, estate taxes

What Should the Estate Tax Threshold Be?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 24, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


For those dying in 2021, the threshold for federal estate taxes is $11.7 million, $23.4 million for a married couple. Smaller estates, which means virtually all estates, pay nothing. Larger estates pay 40% of everything above the threshold. 

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Topics: estate taxes

Appeals Court Case Potentially Undermines Phannenstiehl Protections

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on August 7, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


The case of Phannenstiehl v. Phannenstiehl (475 Mass. 105, 2016) established the rule that if your parents create a trust for your benefit and leave discretion over distributions in the hands of the trustee, the funds in that trust will not be considered part of the marital estate upon your divorce. (See our description of this case: In Pfannenstiehl Case, MA SJC Affirms Use of Asset Protection Trusts.) A recent Massachusetts Appeals Court decision appears to narrow this rule. 

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Topics: asset protection, divorce, estate taxes

SJC Rules on Effect of Out-of-State QTIP Election in Massachusetts

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 29, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Perhaps only of interest to estate planners, but of great interest to them, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled in Shaffer v. Commissioner or Revenue (SJC-12812, July 10, 2020) that out-of-state QTIP trusts are includible in the Massachusetts estates of surviving spouses if the deceased spouse's estate filed a federal QTIP election for the estate. This is probably relevant mostly for larger estates and for older trusts, since given the current $11.58 million federal estate tax threshold, few estates today need to file a federal QTIP election.

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Topics: estate taxes

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

Massachusetts Taxes Real Estate in Estates of Non-Residents

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 24, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis


That house on the Cape, Martha's Vineyard, or in the Berkshires, what happens when the owner dies and is not a Massachusetts resident? Is it subject to the Massachusetts estate tax?


And it's a bit complicated.

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Topics: Massachusetts, estate taxes, real estate

Why You Don't Need to Review Your Estate Plan Every 5 Years (Unless You're 60+)

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 31, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

How often should you review your estate plan? The answer, like that to many other legal questions, is it depends. It depends on how old you are and whether there has been a significant change in your circumstances. If you are over age 60 and you haven't updated your estate plan in many decades (which is the norm among our clients), it's almost certain that you need to update your documents. After that, you should review your plan every five years or so. But if you're younger, you don't need to do so nearly as often.



Here are a few age ranges and what they mean in terms of estate planning:

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Topics: Estate Planning, estate taxes

Should You Engage in Massachusetts Estate Tax Planning?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 3, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis Massachusetts-Estate-tax-planning-attorney-Wellesley-MA

With the threshold for federal estate taxes now at $11.58 million (in 2020), you probably don't have to worry about it or do any planning to avoid it. Very few Americans have federally taxable estates. But the threshold for Massachusetts residents is $1 million. So, if you live in Massachusetts and your estate is above $1 million—which isn't hard if you own a house in many communities in this state—should you engage in estate tax planning?

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Topics: estate taxes

Another Reason to Support the Estate Tax

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 9, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis


In December 2017, while it was still pending, I wrote a post about the competing versions of the GOP tax law with regard to federal estate tax. The House bill would have eliminated it entirely. The Senate version, which ultimately passed, doubled the threshold for taxation to $11.2 million for individuals and $22.4 million for married couples (as of 2020, the estate tax threshold is now at $11.58 million). At the risk of getting too political, I made my pitch as to why an estate tax is important in terms of equity and democracy.

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Topics: estate taxes

The Estate Tax: Going, Going, Gone?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 5, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis


When I originally wrote this post in 2017, the U.S. House and Senate were poised to eliminate the federal estate tax for all but the richest Americans, raising the estate tax threshold from the then current $5.5 million for individuals (and $11 million for married couples) to $11 million (and $22 million, respectively). The House bill would have ultimately eliminated the tax all together in 2024. This was the culmination of a long-term campaign against the estate tax which began more than two decades ago when the threshold for taxation was just $600,000.

Already, the result had been that only about 5,000 estates per year pay estate taxes, down from 52,000 in 2000.

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Topics: estate taxes

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