Estate planning is a very large part of our practice. In fact, we are engaged in significant daily activity in creating estate plans (including all ancillary documents) for our clients. We do these creatively, cost-effectively, competently, and within a short time period. Often our turnaround time is less than two weeks. Laurie Israel is the head of the estate planning group, and her law partner, Laura E. Days is also actively engaged in the estate planning part of the firm’s practice.
Wills and Trusts
Our attorneys expertly draft last wills and testaments for our clients, whether the estate is modest or large. Our level of review and our careful attention to detail has served many clients. Often we recommend an estate plan for married people with young children involving a “pour-over” (or living) trust. Under this plan, a trust for the benefit of children is created so that if both parents die prior to the children becoming competent adults, trustees (usually family members) can handle the inherited funds (including life insurance and retirement assets) on the childrens’ behalf.
Part of the estate planning process is to redo beneficiary designation forms (such as for life insurance and retirement assets) so that they are consistent with the estate plan. In the typical husband/wife/children plan, the spouses will be primary beneficiaries and the trust for the benefit of the children will the the secondary or contingent beneficiary.
Credit Shelter / Bypass Trust Estate Plans
We also plan, prepare, and draft estate-tax sensitive estate plans for our clients with large estates (in 2012, the Federal credit shelter is $5 million). This permits the spouses to use the Federal and Massachusetts credit shelters at the time of the first spouse to die. We can explain the use and benefits of QTIP trusts, and help you evaluate the various estate planning methods that most fits your needs and preferences.
Read Laurie’s article:
Opportunities for Massachusetts Estate Tax Savings
Clients have the opportunity to reduce Massachusetts estate taxes by gifting property to their heirs prior to death. Laurie Israel and Laura Days can explain how this technique can benefit your family.
2012 is the year to take advantage of the expanded lifetime gift exemption, which is $5 million until the end of this year.
Property Ownership and Titles
We work with clients on their estate plan by helping them choose the appropriate form of property ownership (of real estate and other property). The differences between title in an individual’s sole name, joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, and tenancy in common are carefully analyzed and explained. The ramifications of choosing one form over the other is discussed. Our of-counsel real estate and title attorney, Heather Hoffman, Esq., checks real estate titles to see if there are any problems, and sophisticated title questions can be answered.
One of our most important responsibilities in creating estate plans involves beneficiary designations. It is of the utmost importance that they are checked, and that they correspond with the desired estate plan. We carefully review beneficiary designations on our clients’ life insurance and retirement assets so that they are consistent with the estate plan and so that there are no surprises upon death (e.g., life insurance to ex-spouses). Often the estate plans involve updating the beneficiary designations, and adding contingent beneficiaries, which in certain circumstances is the pour-over trust.
Other Necessary Documents
We also advise clients on and draft the ancillary documents (i.e., powers of attorneys, living wills, health care proxies, HIPAA releases, directives as to remains, and other necessary documents) so that our clients can have peace of mind and a plan for the future. We analyze joint holdings of clients, to make sure that a specific account is a “convenience account” rather than an intention to give a gift. Our aim is to make sure that there are no problems and pitfalls (and no painful litigation) once a death occurs — whether suddenly and unexpectedly, or in old age.
Succession Planning for Closely Held Business
Our attorneys can help clients address what to do about their closely-held business or sole proprietorship, corporation LLC or other entity to ensure their aims are met to provide continuation of the business, or get the most value out of their asset for their old age or to provide to their heirs. This area of law is the intersection between small business planning and estate planning.
Mediating Estate Plans
Sometimes the elder generation wishes to have open and direct estate planning with the younger generation to provide clarity, family peace, and a pathway to the future. Laurie Israel, Karen Van Kooy and Matthew Solomon can serve as a family mediator for families embarking on this type of estate planning.