Emergency Guardianship Proxy Update

I am reposting this article from November 7, 2011 on Emergency Guardianship Proxies to remind parents of  how important they are. An Emergency Guardianship Proxy  is an important document for parents with minor children.  I urge all parents to get one.  It nominates a temporary guardian to care for your minor children in case you are unable to.  It is only valid for 60 days and it is effective only upon your incapacity, your death, or with your consent.

This is a simple form, but is important if something ever happens to you and your spouse and you need someone to care for your children temporarily. For example, you and your spouse are on vacation with out the children and you are in an accident. Who will take care of the kids while you are in the hospital? This is when it is handy to have a temporary guardian who has authority to care for your children and can authorize medical treatments if your children need it.

I hope you will consider getting one.

Estate Tax Tables

Clients are always asking, “What’s the estate tax rate?”, so I’ve decided to post it for you all to see:

Massachusetts Estate Tax Table

If the Massachusetts taxable estate is over the first amount but under the second

$0 – $50,000……………………………….5% of the taxable estate

$50,000 – $100,000………………………$2,500 plus 7% of the excess over $50,000

$100,000 – $200,000…………………….$6,000 plus 9% of the excess over $100,000

$200,000 – $400,000…………………….$15,000 plus 10% of the excess over $200,000

$400,000 – $600,000…………………….$35,000 plus 11% of the excess over $400,000

$600,000 – $800,000…………………….$57,000 plus 12% of the excess over $600,000

$800,000 – $1,000,000………………….$81,000 plus 13% of the excess over $800,000

$1,000,000 – $2,000,000……………….$107,000 plus 14% of the excess over $1,000,000

$2,000,000 – $4,000,000……………….$247,000 plus 15% of the excess over $2,000,000

$4,000,000………………………………….$547,000 plus 16% of the excess over $4,000,000


Federal Estate Tax Table

If the Federal taxable estate is:

Not over $10,000…………………………..18% of such amount.

Over $10,000 but not over $20,000…….$1,800, plus 20% of the excess over $10,000

Over $20,000 but not over $40,000…….$3,800, plus 22% of the excess over $20,000

Over $40,000 but not over $60,000…….$8,200, plus 24% of the excess over $40,000

Over $60,000 but not over $80,000…….$13,000, plus 26% of the excess over $60,000

Over $80,000 but not over $100,000…..$18,200, plus 28% of the excess over $80,000

Over $100,000 but not over $150,000….$23,800, plus 30% of the excess over $100,000

Over $150,00 but not over $250,000……$38,800, plus 32% of the excess over $150,000

Over $250,000 but not over $500,000….$70,800, plus 34% of the excess over $250,000

Over $500,00 but not over $750,000……$155,800, plus 37% of the excess over $500,000

Over $750,000 but not over $1,000,000………$248,300, plus 39% of the excess over $750,000

Over $1,000,000……………………………………$345,800, plus 40% of the excess over $1,000,000.


Over 62, Why You Should Record an Elderly Homestead

If you are 62 or older and you own your own home you should have an Elderly Declaration of Homestead.

A Declaration of Homestead protects the equity in your home from unsecured creditors up to $500,000.00.  If you are 62 and older you can record an Elderly Declaration of Homestead, which protects the equity in your home up to $500,000.00 per person.  So, if you are married you could potentially have $1 million dollars in protection.

The Declaration of Homestead must be recorded at your local Registry of Deeds and costs only $35.00 dollars to record.  You can get forms at www.masslandrecords.com and select your county.

Good luck!

Should You Talk To Your Family About Your Estate Plan?

Hopefully if you are reading this post you have gotten your Will done. Good for you! Now you must decide if you want to speak with your family about the decisions you have made in your Will.

First, I always recommend to my clients that they sit down with their families and discuss with them the decisions they have made in their Will and other estate planning documents.  I find it makes it easier on family members, especially children, to be able to discuss your estate planning decisions with you while you are still alive.  This is even more important if you have decided to leave more money to one child over another. You don’t want to die with your children feeling like you loved one sibling more than another.

However, having a family meeting about your estate plan isn’t for all families. Some people don’t like discussing such matters with their children and find that it does more harm than good. At the end of the day my suggestions are just that, suggestions. You need to do what feels right for you and your family. That may mean having a family meeting, but it could also mean not having a family meeting.  Take my thoughts into consideration and then do what feels right to you.

Good luck!

Do you have a living will or advanced directive?

Have you ever thought about your wishes for your end of life care? If you haven’t, you should. No one likes to think about death and dying, but it is so important to plan for your future.

Consider the kind of treatment you would want to have in the following situations:

  1. Close to death;
  2. Permanent and severe brain damage and not expected to recover;
  3. In a coma and not expected to wake up or recover;
  4. How comfortable do you want to be when you are close to death?

These are the four basic questions you need to think about and answer in your living will. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan.

People often think that estate plans are only for the elderly, like our parents. This is a common misconception. Every one needs some form of an estate plan.

Over 18? You’ll need a Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Proxy, HIPAA release, and Advanced Directive.  Once you turn 18 you are considered an adult.  Your parents are no longer able to read your medical records, or even get your school grades.  This will likely, give you a wonderful sense of freedom. As it did for me, when I turned 18.  However, what happens if you are ever in an accident and you need your parents to take care of your finances or make medical decisions for you because you are unable.  A Durable Power of Attorney allows your parents or whomever you appoint to take care of your finances if you are unable to. A Healthcare Proxy allows the person of your choice to make medical decisions for you if you are ever incapacitated.  The HIPAA release allows your Healthcare Proxy to read your medical records. And finally, an Advanced Directive allows you to explain what you would like to happen in your end of life care.

In your 20’s?  You’ll need the documents listed above and a Will. You need a Will to designate who you want to inherit your property upon your death.

Unmarried Couples?  You need an estate plan more than anyone. If you are part of an unmarried couple, same-sex or otherwise. The only way your partner will inherit your property is through a Will.

Married with Children? You need all of the documents above and you need to make sure that you nominate a guardian to care for your children in case you and your spouse die while the children are minors.  You may also want to consider getting a trust to manage your minor children’s assets upon your death.

Elderly? You’ll want to review your estate plan and make sure that it still properly expresses your wishes for the distribution of your property.  You will also want to make sure that your beneficiary designations forms are all up to date.

Where Should My Will Be Stored?

So, you’ve finally taken the leap and gotten your Will drafted. Kudos! Now where do you put it for safekeeping?

First, I recommend you keep all of you important financial papers in the same place. This means that along with your Estate Planning documents you’ll also want to keep copies of any life insurance policies, IRA’s or retirement accounts, a list of bank accounts, stocks or bonds, and any other financial papers that relate to your estate.

Next, is to pick a safe location to store all these documents. Some people leave them in their desk draw, others a home fireproof safe, or a bank safe deposit box. All of these are good options. The most important thing to remember is to make sure your loved ones know where your documents are stored. No sense in having a Will if no one can find it.

Top 7 Tips When Planning for a Funeral*

  1. Shop around in advance. Compare prices from at least two funeral homes. Remember that you can supply your own casket or urn.
  2. Ask for a price list. The law requires funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services.
  3. Resist pressure to buy goods and services you don’t really want or need.
  4. Avoid emotional overspending. It’s not necessary to have the fanciest casket or the most elaborate funeral to properly honor a loved one.
  5. Recognize your rights. Laws regarding funerals and burials vary from state to state. It’s a smart move to know which goods or services the law requires you to purchase and which are optional.
  6. Apply the same smart shopping techniques you use for other major purchases. You can cut costs by limiting the viewing to one day or one hour before the funeral, and by dressing your loved one in a favorite outfit instead of costly burial clothing.
  7. Plan ahead. It allows you to comparison shop without time constraints, creates an opportunity for family discussion, and lifts some of the burden from your family.

*This list provided courtesy of the FTC, Funerals: A Consumer Guide publication, which can be found on their website at www.ftc.gov/bcp/rulemaking/funeral/index.shtm.

Women and Wills

All my single ladies come get your Will done!

We are in a new age. One where women are waiting longer to get married and have children. This is in large part because women are now obtaining advanced degrees and they want to focus on their careers. As a result, women are now more financially independent then in years past. Women no longer need to get married to obtain financial security. They have obtained it all on their own.

According to AARP nearly 2/3rds of Americans do not have a Will. I am encouraging all my single ladies to get their estate plans done now! Don’t wait until you get married someday to get your estate plan done. We don’t know what the future holds and you need to be prepared in case something happens to you.

We all plan and save for our retirement, investing our money wisely. But the one piece of the financial puzzle often left out is getting an estate plan done.  Having a proper estate plan can often save you money, by limiting the amount of estate taxes paid at your death. Besides the fact that you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your wishes are being fulfilled. You don’t want to leave a mess for your loved ones to sort out after your gone. Plan for your future today!

I’m Getting Married. Is My Will Still Valid?

Yes! Under the Uniform Probate Code which took effect January 2, 2012, once you make a Will it remains valid even if you get married later on.

Prior to the Uniform Probate Code taking effect the answer would have been, “No.” Marriage would have invalidated a previous Will. But that is no longer the case. You are free to make a Will and then get married. So, don’t fear, go out and get your Will done today!