All of us will face the death of a loved one at some point in our lives. Death is a certainty for all of us. Yet, the legal issues associated with death can be simplified and often eliminated with sound planning and proper advice.
An estate and trust administration attorney at MacLean Holloway Doherty & Sheehan, P.C. can provide that planning and advice to administrators, executors, and trustees.
When an individual dies, certain assets of the decedent (non-probate) may be transferred by contract. These assets include joint and survivorship property, payable on death accounts, transfer on death property, and most life insurance and retirement benefits. Other assets (probate) may be transferred through proceedings in Probate Court. Most persons die owning both probate and non-probate assets, all of which generally require some type of documentation to complete the transfer. There are advantages and disadvantages in using non-probate or probate proceedings.
It is the Probate Court’s responsibility to ensure the probate assets are collected, maintained, and distributed among the decedent’s heirs, beneficiaries, and/or creditors according to the direction of the decedent as expressed through a will and the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This process is known as probate administration or estate administration. Due to the complexity of the law and the legal problems that are involved in administering an estate plan, we strongly recommend that all fiduciaries seek legal counsel. Good legal advice and guidance can expedite the probate process, prevent costly errors, and protect against the fiduciary being sued. Our estate, probate and trust administration attorneys have decades of experience counseling personal representatives and trustees with respect to the legal issues associated with the administration of an estate or trust.
Among the services that our firm provides to personal representatives and trustees are the following:
Administration of Estates
Our attorneys and paralegals help decedents’ families with the collection, preservation, and protection of estate assets. We assist them in preparing an inventory and in determining values of estate property. We arrange for payment of decedent’s expenses of last illness, funeral expenses, and the ongoing maintenance of estate property.
Probate Court Representation
Our attorneys provide complete probate court representation ranging from the appointment of an executor or administrator to the presentation and allowance of the final account. We present and defend will contests and other interlocutory motions that deal with the disposition of estate property. We also provide representation related to the appointment of guardians and conservators.
Postmortem Tax Planning
Our attorneys advise clients on various post mortem tax elections, including, but not limited to, qualified disclaimers. These tax elections and disclaimers must be made in a timely manner. We also provide beneficiaries with tax advice concerning the distribution of assets from qualified retirement plans.
Preparation of Estate and Fiduciary Tax Returns
In addition to preparing and filing estate and fiduciary tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, we also provide representation with respect to all levels of both federal and state estate and income tax audits, including filing petitions with the United States Tax Court, Massachusetts Probate Court and Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board.
Trust Fiduciary Services
The firm actively assists trustees with the management of a variety of trusts, including multi-generational trusts, charitable lead and remainder trusts, and irrevocable life insurance trusts. We are able to empower our fiduciary clients with a unique process that enables them to make customized investment selection decisions in a completely transparent and objective manner. We also work with our clients’ independent investment advisors, if appropriate.
Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts
Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts generally own one or more life insurance policies held for the benefit of a spouse and future generations. The firm’s trust department administers these policies to insure that the proceeds pass for the benefit of the spouse and then to the next generation free of estate and gift taxes.
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