Drafting a will takes some time, but it makes the bequeathal process much simpler. Because of the lack of clarity regarding the deceased’s wishes, it can be far more complicated for their loved ones to inherit their belongings. Here’s what happens to someone’s assets and property if they pass away without a will.
Lack of Control Over Bequeathal
Without a living will, trust, or another form of estate planning, the person who has died will be declared “intestate,” and their family has no say in how their belongings are divided and distributed. The state of Massachusetts will handle this process, and it has specific patterns for deciding who gets what:
- For people who were married with children, the spouse receives the majority of the estate, and a portion is earmarked for the children.
- For people who had children but no spouse, the children will inherit the estate.
- For unmarried persons without children, the property goes first to any living parents. Next in line are siblings, nephews and nieces, aunts and uncles, and cousins.
- It’s often difficult for domestic partners who are not a spouse to receive any assets.
Increased Estate Taxes
Because the state will be responsible for the deceased’s property, a judge will choose an executor to attend to their assets, meaning their loved ones are kept out of the process. Creating a will often helps people minimize the amount of estate taxes their assets incur. For those without a will, the state will ensure that all applicable estate taxes and outstanding debts are paid before distributing assets to family members.
Certain accounts, like bank accounts and life insurance policies, do have protections in place for those without a will. These can allow people to choose who will receive the account’s contents upon their death. Most assets, however, are considered probate and require a will to have designated recipients. People who would like to consult an experienced attorney for drafting a will can look to The Law Office of Arthur P. Skarmeas, LLC. Arthur Skarmeas and his legal staff have over 30 years of experience helping clients across Massachusetts and New Hampshire make informed decisions that protect their assets. To schedule a consultation with our attorneys, give us a call at (978) 887-0093 today.
Sometimes, it can seem like lawyers speak an entirely different language. But for non-lawyers in a variety of fields, being familiar with a few legal terms can give them a competitive edge when discussing industry regulations or potential deals. Here’s a brief list of common legal terms and their meanings.
This term refers to an official request of some kind that is submitted to a court and seeks resolution, whether it’s a lawsuit, restraining order, or criminal charges. A cause of action is the reason behind filing a judicial request, such as gross negligence, harassment, or real estate fraud.
Damages are the total sum of money that is rewarded to a party after a lawsuit. An attorney can file a suit on behalf of an aggrieved party to seek compensatory damages, to make up for lost wages and emotional distress, or punitive damages, to punish the at-fault party for their missteps.
Malpractice describes a series of events in which one party commits an error or omission that injures someone they were caring for. In a medical context, this applies to healthcare professionals whose failure to follow established best practices harms a patient.
This refers to the practice of obtaining information in the early phases of legal proceedings. Both parties share their findings with each other, as well as performing additional research. During discovery, each side discloses the arguments and evidence they will use to support their position. It might seem counterintuitive to be so transparent, but discovery can help save time. If one party’s case clearly has more merit than the other’s, they can reach a settlement and avoid going to court.
Understanding these common terms and processes can make it easier to understand some of the jargon you encounter. However, if you need help with a legal matter, you should consult an experienced lawyer for guidance. At The Law Office of Arthur P. Skarmeas, LLC, our attorneys are licensed to assist clients in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. To schedule an appointment, fill out our contact form or call (978) 887-0093.
It is common to have questions about different health insurance coverage types, particularly the differences between Medicare and MassHealth. Here in Massachusetts, MassHealth is just the state name for Medicaid, and it is no different than the Medicaid care offered in other states. An easy way to quickly differentiate these two types of coverage is to think of Medicare as care for the elderly, while Medicaid is aid for those who can’t afford coverage. These two types of care can have significant differences, and one is likely more appropriate than the other in certain situations.
What Is MassHealth/Medicaid?
Medicaid offers a variety of coverage to participants based on several factors such as income, age, and if the participant has a disability. The MassHealth standard level of coverage is the most comprehensive coverage and includes services like inpatient hospital stays, outpatient appointments, mental health care, pharmacy costs, and lab tests or X-rays. It also covers long-term care services, hospice, and care for chronic diseases or rehabilitation after an injury. Proper Medicaid planning can help eligible participants get the right level of coverage and care for every stage in life.
What Is Medicare?
Unlike MassHealth, which is a state-organized program, Medicare is a federal health insurance program specifically for senior citizens that is broken out into several different parts. For example, Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital visits as well as in-home health care, hospice care, and costs associated with a skilled nursing home facility. Part B covers outpatient care, Part C is a private health plan through Medicare, and Part D covers prescription drug costs. In addition, some patients who receive Medicare may also be eligible for MassHealth coverage to help pay for expenses from Part A or B premiums and non-pharmacy copayments and deductibles.
Talk to a Professional
While this offers a brief introduction to these two types of coverage, these are complex systems with many rules and regulations that may affect your coverage. If you are nearing the age of 65 or have aging parents, we recommend you speak with a professional about your coverage options. At The Law Office of Arthur P. Skarmeas, LLC, our elder law attorneys can help you plan for your future and make an empowered decision about your health coverage. Contact our office in Topsfield, MA today to schedule your free consultation.
An alternative to traditional testaments and estate planning methods, family trusts allow individuals to control, protect, and manage their assets both presently and in the future. Ideal for those with assets of substantial value, family trusts can help minimize or eliminate concerns such as access delays, wasteful spending, unintended possession of ownership, and other concerns by allowing for highly specific protections and plans.
Manage Wealth Privately
When a person chooses to pass assets to loved ones after their death through a will, a state court process called probate is required prior to finalizing the estate. Probate is a public legal process, so anyone who wishes can obtain access to the details of the proceedings. Additionally, probate often becomes complex, incurring unforeseen costs and lengthy delays. Family trusts keep all processes private, and there is no probate involved.
Transfer Estate Property
A little-known benefit of family trusts is that an attorney can help you transfer family property into the trust, which therefore becomes an asset instead of personal property. Because trust assets are explicitly delegated to a beneficiary through the trustor (the person who establishes the trust), trustees can avoid unclear intentions and prevent unnecessary disputes over estates.
Prevent Relationship Property Claims
If a family member who is bequeathed an asset is married or in a civil union at the time the asset is received, that property then becomes the property of both parties. In the event of a split or divorce, both parties are then entitled to half the asset’s value. Another perk of transferring property to trusts is that the trustee can gift an asset specifically to one family member and not their partner or spouse, thus protecting the assets from such property relationship claims.
Protect Substantial Assets
Ideal for those with high-value assets or who have careers in fields that are subject to frequent litigation, an irrevocable trust is a safe, responsible way to preserve funds for future generations. As its name suggests, an irrevocable trust cannot be amended, so once the assets are placed in it, it cannot be touched by the trustor, trustee, or beneficiary until the trustor’s death or an agreed-upon date. The benefit of this type of family trust is that, because the assets are permanently removed from the trustor’s possession, they are no longer considered their property and cannot be accessed by creditors or courts. Irrevocable trusts are tax-free up to $11.18 million.
At The Law Office of Arthur P. Skarmeas, LLC, our qualified attorneys have extensive experience in creating family trusts that provide our clients with financial control and peace of mind. Contact our Topsfield, MA office today at (978) 887-0093 for more information or to schedule your free consultation.
Many people harbor fears of reaching an age or state in which they are unable to take care of themselves and make important decisions. A living will can be utilized so that your affairs are predetermined and you can make decisions that are right for you and your family; however, a living will isn’t used for the same purpose as a last will and testament during estate planning. Instead of leaving matters in the hands of grieving family members, creating a living will allows you to make medical decisions for yourself if you are unable to voice your wishes in real-time. The following are important factors to consider when deciding if a living will is right for you.
Situations may arise in which you are incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or simply unable to communicate. In these cases, a living will can act as a resource. You can state in clearly defined terms whether or not you want potentially lifesaving treatments and procedures, and whether or not you want to utilize life support services. You can also choose a loved one to make those decisions for you if specifying in advance is an uncomfortable choice.
Legalities of a Living Will
Beyond being able to specify a decision maker in the event you can no longer choose for yourself, a living will can also help a person bypass certain legal difficulties that could arise. In many states, families do not have total power to make the calls necessary at the end of a person’s life. Court orders may be needed, which can make tough situations even more drawn out and difficult for those already bearing a great burden. Complicating things further, sometimes a physician may end up making the decision if a family cannot come together to choose. Obviously, neither outcome is ideal.
Consider the Expenses
Extended medical care can result in mounting medical bills, which would become the responsibility of family once your own funds are exhausted. If a living will is drawn up in advance, you could specify when to terminate medical care and ensure that your family can focus on ensuring a peaceful passing instead of facing other difficult decisions. At The Law Office of Arthur P. Skarmeas, LLC, we recognize the importance of end-of-life decisions. Our team is licensed to practice in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and can help you and your family create a living will or assist with other legal matters at your convenience. Give us a call today at (978) 887-0093 or fill out our form for a free consultation.