The passing of a loved one can be devastating. While the legal procedures or finances of a departed relative or friend is not something you likely want to consider during an already difficult time, state and federal requirements make it an inevitable part of the mourning process. At the law firm of Hutchings Barsamian Mandelcorn, LLP, we routinely assist administrators, executors and personal representatives with the proceedings relating to a decedent’s estate in probate court. With years of experience and a vast knowledge of the laws and procedures, we work to maximize returns and minimize the frustration associated with the lengthy probate process.
At the start of the process, we will help you to understand all of the necessary steps involved and provide you with a detailed overview of your legal responsibilities. If there is a will in place, we will work with you to prepare the appropriate petition asking the Court to allow the will and approve the executor (the individual named by the decedent to oversee the distribution of the estate). When there is no will, our legal team will help you file the appropriate documentation to initiate the administration process.
During this time, a number of steps must be taken by the personal representative, these generally include, but are not limited to:
- Locating any and all estate planning documents executed by the decedent;
- Notifying heirs and creditors of the death;
- Creating a detailed inventory of the estate;
- Resolving any claims against the estate;
- Preparing federal and state tax returns; and
- Obtaining court approval and distributing assets to beneficiaries (this may be determined by the decedent or if no estate plan is in place, may be done according to Massachusetts Intestate Succession laws).
The role of personal representative is not something to be taken lightly, and without the right legal guidance, it can become an incredibly time consuming and daunting task. This can be further compounded if the representative does not reside in the same city or state as the decedent. Our firm routinely represents “out of town” clients and in most cases, we can appear in court on your behalf reducing the amount of travel time and expense associated with court appearances.
There are many approaches to estate planning and, depending upon your specific situation, an estate planning attorney may employ any one of them. Usually, a Last Will and Testament and Trust is executed along with a Health Care Proxy and Living Will in order to create a comprehensive plan. At Hutchings Barsamian Mandelcorn, LLP, our goal in creating an estate plan for you is always to allow you to live out your life with peace of mind that your estate matters are handled the way you would like, and to preserve as many of your assets as possible while distributing them in line with your wishes.
Wills and Trusts
While many believe that wills are the cornerstone of most estate plans, this is not always the case. Wills are subject to the lengthy and expensive probate process which many attorneys do their best to avoid. Most, if not all, of the same objectives that are accomplished by a will can be accomplished by a properly drafted trust along with the use of beneficiary designations. This allows attorneys to use wills as a backup for assets that fall outside of a trust or beneficiary designation in order to streamline or totally avoid the probate process. Taking this approach to estate planning and avoiding the probate process saves your heirs time and money, and ensures a smooth inheritance process. It also allows for more flexibility when considering the minimization of estate and gift taxes.
Taxes are an inevitable part of life and, in some cases, are even owed upon death. Massachusetts residents are subject to both state and federal taxes if an estate is valued to be above a certain threshold. According to Massachusetts state law, if an estate is valued above the threshold, then a Massachusetts estate tax return would have to be filed and appropriate taxes paid within nine months from the date of death. The federal estate tax threshold is separate from that of the Massachusetts estate tax threshold, and this too must be filed and paid within nine months from the date of the decedent’s death. It is important to note that estate tax exemptions are subject to frequent changes, which is why the guidance of an experienced attorney is essential during estate settlement. We at Hutchings Barsamian Mandelcorn, LLP will review the size of your estate to determine if a state and/or federal estate tax is due.