Will Contests: How to Avoid Them?

            When preparing your will be sure to speak with your family regarding your inheritance decisions. This is especially important if you are planning to leave more money to one child than another. Often time’s children can feel slighted and hurt when a parent leaves a larger share of the inheritance to their sibling. That child may even consider contesting the will.

             This can all be avoided by simply informing your children before hand of your decisions and the reasons for them. This gives your children the opportunity to express their feelings and ask you questions regarding your decisions. This conversation can limit hurt feelings and will reduce the chances of your child contesting the will after your death.

What is Probate?

It is likely that almost everyone has heard of probate or heard someone say you should avoid it. But what exactly is it?

Probate is the court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid. It also refers to the process of administering a deceased person’s estate. Administering an estate can include collecting a deceased’s assets, paying debts and liabilities, paying taxes, or distributing the deceased’s property to his heirs.

Beneficiary Designation Forms

           Have you updated your Beneficiary Designations lately? You might not remember opening your bank account, but when you did you likely filled out a beneficiary designation form. This form is used to list who you want to be the beneficiary of your bank account at your death.  Do you remember whom you selected?

           It is a good idea to double-check your beneficiary designation.   Make sure the person listed is still the person who you want to inherit your property.  This applies to bank accounts as well as life insurance, IRA’s or retirement accounts.

Is Your Estate Plan Up To Date?

Do you have an estate plan that is over three (3) years old?  If so, you should consider having it reviewed to ensure that it is still up-to-date.

The Law is constantly changing and it is important to keep your estate plan in line with current laws.  Not only does the law change, but also you change. What you wanted to happen three (3) years ago or even ten (10) years ago may not be what you still want today. Or maybe the value of your estate has changed and you need to revise your estate plan as a result.

New Year’s is the perfect time to start thinking about having your estate plan revised. Contact an experienced estate-planning attorney today and mark this task off your New Year’s resolution list!

Disability Insurance: Why You Need it?

Disability Insurance, you probably think this is a waste of money. You’ll never need it because you’ve always worked and always will. But, what happens if you get sick unexpectedly and can no longer work or can only work part-time? How will you make up for that loss in income? Savings can only last so long before they run out.

Disability insurance can provide you with income when because of illness you are no longer able to continue working full-time. This could just be a temporary situation or a permanent one. Disability insurance can be especially helpful if you are self-employed because you are solely responsible for your income.  And it’s not just for older people. Young people need disability insurance just as much. Remember, just because you are young, you are not immune from illness.

Please consider getting a disability insurance policy for you and your significant other. You’ll be glad you did!


New Year’s Resolutions – Get Your Estate Plan Done!

Well, it’s that time of year again and New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. I’m sure you are all busy writing out your New Year’s resolutions for 2012.  That is why now is the perfect time to hire an attorney to draft your Will.  I know you have all been meaning to get your Will done for ages, but keep putting it off. New Year’s is a great time to finally take care of your Estate Plan.

So, call an experienced Estate Planning Attorney today and finally get your Will taken care of.

Why Do I Need a Living Will?

First off, let me explain what a Living Will is. A Living Will is a document that let’s your Healthcare Proxy know what your wishes are for your care if something were to happen to you. Do you wish to have extraordinary measures taken to save your life? Do you wish to be kept on a feeding tube? Or maybe you want none of those things. The Living Will is where you will express these wishes.

Why do you need one? I recommend that everyone obtain a Living Will because it is essential that your nominated Healthcare Proxy know what decisions you would like him/her to make for your care. A Living Will is not legally binding in Massachusetts, but is a great way to express your wishes. Without one, your Proxy will be deciding what they think is best for you, but not necessarily what you want to happen.  Make sure a Living Will is apart of your estate plan!

Whole Life Insurance — It’s Making a Come Back!

Does whole life insurance sound like something your grandparents had? If you think it’s not for you your wrong. Whole life insurance is back and more popular than ever!  With the fall of the U.S. economy people are looking for more secure ways to invest their money.  Whole life insurance just may be the thing.

Unlike term life insurance, you are guaranteed to get your investment back with whole life insurance.  You can borrow back your premium payments also known as “cash value” regardless of your creditworthiness.  And mutual insurance companies have no shareholders. The policyholders are whom they answer to, making them a safer investment.

Also, the “cash value” of your whole life insurance policy earns interest, which is usually untaxed! Whole life insurance can be a good vehicle to save for retirement, long-term disability, a child’s college education, or provide for your family once your deceased. Speak with your attorney and a trusted insurance agent about purchasing the right whole life insurance policy for you and your family.

When Your Child’s A Spendthrift?

Recently, I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal regarding what to do if your child is a spendthrift.  I recommend everyone check it out, it is a great read! It was from the September 19, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal, page R3, Author: Jennifer Hoyt Cummings. I’ll summarize for you the main points of the article:

 1.    Create an investment firm.  Families, who have children that are bad with money, may want to consider creating a family investment company that controls the children’s inheritance. To help the children learn to be better with their finances: put them on the board of the investment company, have the children interview the investment advisors, hold regular strategy calls with kids and advisors, have the children attend financial literacy classes.

2.    Pick the right trustees. Parents could pick two trustees instead of just one trustee. The first trustee would be a corporate trustee who would be in control of spending. The second trustee would report to the corporate trustee on the child’s progress in improving their financial skills. It’s probably best to assign this role to a friend of the family and not an immediate family member. This is to avoid family conflict.

3.    Think about the trust rules. Really think about the clauses you put into the trust for your child. What do you want the trust to do, what is its purpose?  Some trusts include clauses that hold money back if the child’s behavior is poor. And yet others have language allowing the trustee to pay the child’s bills.  If you want to encourage your child to work and lead a normal productive life and not simply live off of the trust property. You may want to consider putting language in the trust that says this.

This summarizes the article, which contains some great suggestions on ways to help protect your child if they are terrible with their finances. Read over the suggestions carefully and talk with a qualified estate-planning attorney to determine if any of the above suggestions are right for you and your families needs.

What is a Declaration of Homestead?

A Declaration of Homestead protects a homeowners principal residence up to $500,000 dollars in the land and buildings from attachment by creditors.

If you are age 62 or older you can file an elderly homestead, which protects each homeowner up to $500,000.

A homestead protects the residence from attachments, levy on execution, and sale for payment of debts or legacies except in the following cases:

1) sale for taxes;

2) for a debt contracted prior to the acquisition of said estate of homestead;

3) for a debt contracted for the purchase of said home;

4) upon an execution issued from the probate court to enforce its judgment that a spouse pay a certain amount weekly or otherwise for the support of a spouse or minor children;

5) where buildings on land not owned by the owner of a homestead estate are attached, levied upon or sold for the ground rent of the lot whereon they stand;

6) upon an execution issued from a court of competent jurisdiction to enforce its judgment based upon fraud, mistake, duress, undue influence or lack of capacity.

A homestead is a great thing to have and only costs $35 dollars to record at your local Registry of Deeds.  See M.G.L. c. 188 §§ 1, 1A for more information.