When a loved one passes away, there are generally two routes to transfer assets to family members. One is through the Probate and Family Court and the other is through effective estate planning. This choice can best be summed up as “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The probate process is undeniably expensive, slow, and frustrating. Because of this reality, we have developed our estate planning practice to help our clients avoid the probate process at a time when grieving the loss of a loved one is painful enough.
Each estate plan is different and customized to meet your needs. But most estate plans contain the similar tools. A standard plan would likely include most or all of the following:
Our estate planning practice focuses on your preferences for late-life care and the transfer of your assets. Effective estate planning can help you:
While there are many things in life that call for a do-it-yourself approach, estate planning is not one of them. It is important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to give yourself and your family peace of mind that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes and while avoiding probate. The Nebenzahl Law Group brings decades of experience to each client’s particular needs and challenges so we can help you create an estate plan that is thorough, financially efficient and seamless.
The bottom line is that good planning now maximizes the value of your estate, reduces the burdens placed on your family, and ensures that your final wishes are known and honored.
A. Estate Planning is the means by which one’s property is distributed after their death. To avoid probate (the process of using the court system to administer an estate and distribute assets) involves a few meetings with an attorney to understand your family’s needs and to design a plan so that when one passes, the surviving family members can access the assets immediately. This is often necessary to meet the expenses that remain, such as a mortgage, utilities and taxes.
A. The court probate process is stressful, time consuming and costly. Additionally, the Probate and Family Court, like most courts in the Commonwealth handles large amounts of cases that are overwhelming the system and causing frequent delays. Given the multitude of needs, the process can take years to complete. While the court staffs and judges are dedicated and talented, on any given day, they simply have too much to do.
A. The most effective tool to avoid Probate is through the establishment of one or more trusts. A trust is a legal instrument which acts as the holder of assets such as a home, savings account or an investment account. Unless the goal of the estate is to avoid estate taxes or help qualify for long term care through Mass Health, the trust can be changed or revoked at any time. If drafted properly, there is no recognizable day-to-day difference in how the assets are treated than if they remain in an individual’s name.
A. It can, although it is not necessary for most families. Given the current Federal and Massachusetts estate tax laws, most families will not confront estate taxation. Certainly, if estate taxes are a possibility, proper planning can minimize the cost.
A. In most cases proper planning can avoid losing the family home to re-pay Mass Health for the costs of long-term care. It is imperative, however, that this be addressed early. It may be too late to be effective if the planning process does not start until someone reaches the point of needing skilled nursing care.
A. Absolutely not. A young family should have the proper documents drawn up to make sure that children are properly cared for by the person selected by the parents in the event of the parents’ death or incapacity.