Estate Planning

Estate Planning (Wills and Trusts)

will5While it is common for people to wait before “putting their house in order”, it is not uncommon for people to wait until it is too late. It is a simple fact that if you have not created an estate plan by the time of your death, state law will determine how and to whom assets are distributed. At the very least a common sense estate plan includes a Last Will and Testament (directing that your choice of the distribution of assets is implemented), a Durable Power of Attorney (affording a person you trust to handle your affairs in the event of an incapacitation) and Health Care Proxy documents (choosing the trusted individual to make important medical decisions on your behalf in the event you cannot).

There are, however, many different circumstances that impact the decision making process involved to craft a personalized estate plan. Estate tax implications (the Federal threshold exemption amount is currently [2015] $5.43 million dollars however the Massachusetts threshold exemption amount is currently [2015] only $1.0 million dollars) will impact planning. Additionally, the prospect of Medicaid liens (if nursing home or assisted living care becomes a reality) is another concern. A special needs or disabled family member may benefit from a special needs or a disability trust. Various trusts and asset distribution (or transfer) techniques are available to assist in the minimization of estate tax and asset exposure. However every circumstance is different so call today for a consultation to help determine how to most effectively attain your estate planning goals.

Last Will and Testament – Your Last Will and Testament can effectively accomplish your desired asset distribution. Depending on your financial circumstances a Trust vehicle may be more effective or, as is often the case, your Last Will and Testament may devise your assets to a Trust to maximize the estate tax exemptions available and provide for your surviving spouse as well as your children (and grandchildren).

Trusts – Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Testamentary Trusts, Special Needs Trusts -There are many varieties of Trusts. It is a person’s individual circumstances (and desires) that will help determine which, if any, Trust(s) suit your needs. If your circumstances warrant, a Trust drafted by our office may be a most effective and appropriate vehicle for your estate.

Durable Power of Attorney – Preparing your estate adequately for the challenges that life can present should include the preparation of a durable power of attorney. At a time of crisis it provides an element of transition that can help life continue without unnecessary interruption.

Living Wills, Health Care Proxies – A Living Will (which provides medical treatment direction in the event of an incapacitating illness) is a document that specifies the type of medical and personal care you would want should you lose the ability to make and communicate your own decisions. We will draft your Living Will (allowing you to choose a dignified death) and your Health Care Proxy documents (choosing the individual who you trust to abide by your medical decisions). These important health care documents provide the authorization necessary to allow your loved ones to make medical decisions (as you directed) in the event of your incapacitation.
Call today to schedule an appointment so that a personalized estate plan can be crafted to achieve your wishes.

Recent Posts

A Declaration of Homestead can provide protection for a multi-use property – Appeals Court upholds lower court decision.

Back in April of this year Attorney Christopher Knoth posted a blog reporting on a Bankruptcy court decision where the Homestead protections pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 188 were found to be available to a mixed-use property.  Last week the Bankruptcy Appeals Court confirmed that decision making several noteworthy points.

The Court specifically noted that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had admonished (in a topic related decision) that the intended public policy and the purpose of the Homestead Act should cause courts to construe the homestead exemptions liberally in favor of debtors.  Consequently the Court held that the mere use of a residence for non-residential purposes, at least when the predominant purpose is residential, does not, by itself, preclude an exemption for the Property.

Although counsel for the appellant argued that any non-residential use of a structure would exempt it from the protections of the Homestead statute (citing that the statute itself specifically defined the properties which could enjoy the protection) the Court firmly rejected that argument (invoking our presently undefeated local professional football franchise to illustrate): “If a homeowner in Foxborough were to rent out her driveway to Patriots fans on Gillette Stadium game-days . . . it defies intuition to think she no longer lives in a single-family dwelling.”

It is still important to note that the Court did not mandate a hard and fast rule but rather indicated that evaluations (to determine a property’s “primary” use) would ultimately be made on a “case by case” basis.

This case provides another clear demonstration that a Declaration of Homestead can be an invaluable protection for Massachusetts homeowners.  The current Homestead statute even allows its filing for a property held in Trust.  Additionally, the Massachusetts Homestead Law increases (doubles) protection amounts for the disabled as well as for homeowners 62 years of age or older.

Contact our office to make sure you have recorded a Declaration of Homestead for your principal residence in Massachusetts!

Attorney Harold F. Moody, Jr.

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