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North Reading Massachusetts Estate Planning Blog

What you need to know about Massachusetts estate tax

When you plan your estate, you want your loved ones to receive the maximum amount of property and assets you intended for them. Because of this, the prospect of your estate paying considerable estate taxes after your death can be frustrating.

Massachusetts is one of few states that collects state estate taxes. This can prompt both those planning their estates and personal representatives of estates to seek help in efficiently navigating the complex tax system.

When should you update an estate plan?

An estate plan is a vibrant, dynamic gathering of documents that should be updated as regularly as possible. It should not be a handwritten note in your dresser or a private document gathering dust in a security deposit box. When you keep this plan relevant, it can be used at any moment to reflect your true wishes.

Why funding your trust is so important

Most people create a trust because they want peace of mind. They want to know their assets will pass on easily once they are gone, or that if they become incapacitated, an appointed trustee can handle their affairs.

However, as the grantor of the trust, you must do more than create the trust documents. For a trust to be effective, you must also fund the trust. Funding a trust means you transfer the assets you want protected by a trust from your name to the name of the trust.

Baby Boomers - Don't Leave Money on the Table. Part 4: Survivors Benefits

Your death will have a devastating impact on your family in many ways. If you are the major breadwinner, your loved ones must deal with the loss of your income at a time when they are least able to cope. Understanding the Social Security survivor's benefits rules now is an important part of retirement planning and can make this transition less painful.  Most people are aware that when they die, their surviving spouse will be eligible for Social Security survivor's benefits. Few realize that their dependent and disabled children, their dependent parents, and their former spouses may be eligible for survivor's benefits. Some of these benefits are listed on your Social Security statement and your spouse's statement, which you can find at http://www.ssa.gov/myaccount.   Following is a more detailed explanation of the benefits that are available for your eligible dependents. 

Baby Boomers Don't Leave Money on the Table. Part 3: Social Security Spousal Benefits

Part 3. Social Security Spousal Benefits.

In retirement planning, an overlooked source of income is the Social Security spousal benefit. During your lifetime, your spouse may collect social security benefits based on your earnings or benefits based on his or her earnings. If your spouse has low earnings or has never worked, the spousal benefit will most likely be higher than his or her own benefit. The same rule applies to you. You may collect spousal benefits based on your spouse's earnings rather than collecting your own benefit. You and your spouse also have the option of collecting spousal benefits and then collecting your own benefits at a later age. Before filing for benefits, both you and your spouse should review the following: 1) the benefits that you are entitled to collect based on your earnings at various ages; 2) the spousal benefits that both of you are entitled to collect, based on the earnings of the other spouse; 3) your plans to continue working before or after full retirement age (currently age 66); and 4) some options for filing, such as "file and suspend", which allows your spouse to start collecting spousal benefits while you continue to work. Analyzing these options will enable you and your spouse to maximize the benefits that both of you can collect.

Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements - Do You Need One?

Advising a young couple to enter into a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement is uncomfortable. Basically, I am asking them to plan for divorce. But the divorce statistics are compelling. More than two million people divorce every year in the United States, with a 52% divorce rate for first marriages and a 60% divorce rate for second marriages. Older couples are now divorcing. Baby boomers are looking at twenty-five or thirty years of marriage after retirement. Many are now opting for divorce, with the hope of finding someone new to share their retirement years.

Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptials Agreements - Getting Started

If you and your spouse have decided that a Pe-Nupital or Post-Nupital Agreement should be part of your estate plan, it can be difficult to start the process.  I like to refer my clients to the "Commitment Conversation" at www.equalityinmarriage.org/cc.pdf (a Guide to the Most Improtant Discussion of Your Relationship.) It is worthwhile for any couple, whatever their marital status and stage in life, to go through this exercise. Each member should fill out the detailed questionnaire separately and compare their answers. They most likely will be surprised by each other's answers. Doing this before marriage is ideal, but it's a good idea to do this exercise every few years after the wedding. People change, particularly as they grow older. When the children are grown and have families of their own, a couple's goals will necessarily change. If the couple is approaching retirement, a discussion about goals and expectations is critical. I have seen marriages fall apart when spouses who have worked fulltime are suddenly spending all of their time together after retirement. Each spouse may have very different expectations about what will happen during retirement and what their relationship will be.

WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS AFTER YOUR DEATH

computer3.jpgRecently, I represented the parents of a young woman who had died suddenly, without a Will. After her parents were appointed as Personal Representatives of her estate, they started the search for her assets. She was a successful website designer, doing well financially, but her parents could find no bank or investment statements or bills. Their daughter had gone "paperless". Luckily, her parents could access her e-mail account, where they found notices about overdue payments and online statements. But without usernames and passwords, locating, accessing and dealing with her online accounts was difficult. What should have been a simple estate turned into a two year ordeal. 

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Roberta A. Schreiber, P.C.
Suite 108
348 Park Street
North Reading, MA 01864-2153

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