Estate & Trust Administration
Not everyone understands the importance of planning ahead in order to protect their assets, determine how they should be distributed, and ensure that their wishes are respected after death. An estate plan is crucial to achieve all these important goals, but an estate plan on its own may not be sufficient to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. Some people mistakenly believe that if they have an estate plan, then nothing further will be needed at the death of a loved one. The truth is that strategic planning will prove especially valuable at such a time, including disclaimer planning, portability advice, updating the survivor’s plan, and other considerations. Massachusetts Estate & Trust Administration attorney Boyd & Boyd, P.C. offers a complimentary consultation to our clients to review important strategic and critical considerations such as these. Don’t hesitate to reach out and take advantage of this opportunity, which can make all the difference for your peace of mind.
Administration of an estate of a decedent depends upon which estate planning choices were made during the decedent’s lifetime.
If no plans were made at all, the decedent’s assets would then be considered an “intestate estate.” In that situation, it would be up to the state of Massachusetts to determine who would receive both the non-joint and non-contract property. These decisions would be made according to established standards for intestate estates, and may not reflect the specific wishes of these decedent as these cannot be established without a will. For all assets titled in the decedent’s name a court procedure called probate is necessary to change title from the decedent to the new beneficiary. This often comes as a surprise to heirs when they try to sell the decedent’s property and find out – sometimes very late in the process – that they are unable to do so until they go through probate.
If the decedent did have a will – but did not have a trust – it is still necessary to go through the probate process in court in order to change title from the decedent’s name to the beneficiaries named in the will. As with an intestate estate, the beneficiaries cannot do anything with the property until it goes through probate.
If the decedent had already placed assets into their trust (a funded or living trust) then title must also be changed to reflect the new successor trustee. However, this change of title does not require any court involvement in Massachusetts, and is therefore quicker and less costly than going through probate. There are many issues to address, such as obtaining a new tax identification number for the trust, obtaining the values of assets as of the date of death, the appraisal of real estate, the possible preparation of state and/or federal estate tax returns, and so on.
Massachusetts automatically places an estate tax lien on any Massachusetts real estate owned by the decedent. To clear title, something must be recorded to release the estate tax lien. Likewise, if all of a Massachusetts decedent’s assets amount to one million dollars ($1,000,000) a Massachusetts estate tax return must be prepared and filed. As of 2019, if all of the decedent’s assets total eleven million four hundred thousand dollars ($11,400,000) or more, a U. S. estate tax return must also be prepared and filed. Often it is wise to file an estate tax return for lesser values to peg the tax basis, and to start the statute of limitations running. A return must also be filed in any situation where “portability” of exemption is advised.
As you can see, these are complex issues involving many different factors, some of which involve federal law and some of which involve the state of Massachusetts. Estate & Trust Administration attorney Boyd & Boyd, P.C. is experienced to help you in these matters.
We strive to take the burden from you so that you can focus on the many other things you may be dealing with after the death of a loved one. Rather than worrying about the details of the estate, you can have the peace of mind of knowing that the necessary steps have already been taken and that the matter is now in the hands of experts.
The loss of a loved one is often a time of great stress. One of the first things you can do to minimize this stress is to call our office to schedule a consultation. Estate Administration may take up to a year and a half to fully complete. Fully settling a Trust after a death may take as long as one year. Administering the trust of a decedent, depending on the terms of the instrument, may go on for many years. The process involves a number of different processes such as inventorying assets, appraising assets, changing title, accounting, and paying taxes. You may not realize it, but there are a number of time-sensitive choices available, as well as traps for the unwary. Call Estate & Trust Administration attorney Boyd & Boyd, P.C. to schedule your appointment as soon as practical and before making any claims, so as to avoid these mistakes. We can prepare and file the necessary forms for probate, life insurance, annuities, retirement accounts, and taxes. We can do all the paperwork to assist you through the entire estate settlement process. The best course of action is always to plan ahead with the help of a qualified Estate & Trust Administration attorney, but there are also steps you can take to make sure that everything works out the way your loved one would have wanted it to.
What should you do when someone dies?
Once you have scheduled an appointment with Estate & Trust Administration attorney Boyd & Boyd, P.C. you should gather the following documents and information needed to assist in carrying out duties as Personal Representative or Trustee.
- The Original Will and codicils, if any.
- The Original Trust and all amendments.
- Copies of any other trust with respect to which the decedent was a trustee or beneficiary at the time of death.
- Certified copies of death certificate (about ten).
- Most recent bank statements for accounts on which the decedent’s name appears as either sole or co-owner in any capacity.
- All passbooks and savings certificates on which his name appears.
- A list of all safe deposit boxes on which his name appeared, by bank and branch, and (if you have entered the box or boxes) an inventory of the contents of each.
- All notes or accounts receivable representing payments owed to the decedent.
- Copy of all stock certificates, bonds, US Savings Bonds or other securities.
- Most current statements for all mutual fund and brokerage accounts on which his name appears – either as sole owner, joint, or Trustee.
- All IRA and qualified pension benefit documents, including beneficiary designation forms; any document showing a death benefit.
- Title certificates for all automobiles, recreational vehicles, etc., in which the decedent had any ownership interest.
- All life insurance policies and annuities, including any beneficiary designation forms on his life or your life.
- All deeds to real property in which the decedent had any interest, and copies of any notes or mortgages to which such properties are subject.
- All leases for all real property on which he was either the landlord or tenant.
- The decedent’s personal income tax returns for the three previous years.
- Copies of all gift, estate, and/or generation-skipping transfer tax returns ever filed by the decedent at any time in the past.
- Complete financial statements and copies of tax returns for past three years for any partnerships or other closely held business interests of the decedent.
- Copies of any partnership agreements, buy-sell agreements, and corporate records for any partnership interest or closely held corporation.
- A list of tangible personal property items which, individually or as a group or collection, have a fair market value in excess of $3,000.00 (eg. jewelry, art, antiques, coin or stamp collections, furs, etc.).
- Copies of all checks uncashed at his death, made payable to the decedent.
- Any documents concerning any country club memberships.
- Copies of all bills for expenses of last illness, such as hospital and doctor bills, and an itemized list of all funeral and related expenses.
- A list of any known debts, liabilities, pending lawsuits, or other claims of or against the decedent.
- Any other documents that you believe may be important to our understanding of the decedent’s personal and financial affairs.
While this list may appear overwhelming, obtaining the information will save many questions and delays in the proper administration of an estate. Call Massachusetts Estate & Trust Administration attorney Boyd & Boyd, P.C. at (508) 318-6444 for a free estate planning consultation.
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