The Massachusetts Probate & Family Court recently released part 2 of a 2-part update to its estate forms. A link to the Court’s April 15th “Decoder” (with further links to the new forms and instructions) is found HERE.
By Amanda L. MacGee, J.D. of Burns & Levinson LLP
In Estate of Weaver (Case 15-P-714) (March 2, 2016), three siblings appealed an order of the Probate and Family Court. The Weaver siblings were children of the decedent’s first marriage. During the decedent’s second marriage he and his wife executed reciprocal Wills, leaving their estates to each other, with the decedent’s step-daughter as the alternate recipient. In challenging the Will, the siblings claim undue influence as well as alcohol and drug use by the decedent and his second wife as factors. Decedent’s second wife predeceased him and he did not change his Will prior to his death leaving his entire estate to his step-daughter on his death.
The Appeals Court affirmed the decision of the Probate and Family Court, striking the decedent’s children’s affidavits of objection to his Will. The court found that had his Will been influenced by his deceased wife and estranged step-daughter, enough time had passed in which he could have changed his Will if he so desired.
Regarding the accusations of drug and alcohol abuse, the Appeals Court found there was no evidence that the decedent was under the influence when he executed his Will or the he did not understand its contents. The Appeals Court further found the decedent was in contact with his children after his wife’s death, and that he was aware of the terms of his Will. The court found “ample opportunity” to update his Will, if he so desired.
By: Sarah Roscioli (BCLS 3L)
Overview of Governor’s Proposed Changes to MassHealth Estate Recovery. The Governor’s proposed FY 2017 budget would have, among other things, expanded MassHealth estate recovery to include non-probate property for those becoming eligible for Medicaid (nursing facility benefits) on or after July 1, 2016.
Legislative Update. On April 13, 2016, the House Committee on Ways and Means made its recommendations for the FY 2017 budget, which do not include the Governor’s proposed expanded definition of “estate” for purposes of recovery against the assets of a deceased MassHealth long-term care benefits recipient.
Broadening Definition of “Estate.” Currently, M.G.L. Ch. 118E, Section 31(c) defines “estate” as all real and personal property and other assets included in decedent’s probate estate. The Governor’s proposed language would have redefined the term “estate” to include: (1) joint property, including joint tenancy and tenancy by the entirety; (2) life estates; (3) funded revocable trusts; and (4) other property passing by beneficiary designation. The Governor’s proposed language specifically excluded annuities and life insurance, with the exception of payments otherwise includable in the decedent’s probate estate.
Recovery Deferred for Surviving Spouse. It is important to note that the Governor’s proposed budget would not have hastened the Division’s recovery when the decedent is survived by a spouse, i.e., under Chapter 118E, Section 31(b), recovery may not commence until after the death of the surviving spouse.
Overview of Budget Approval Process. On January 27, 2016, Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito filed their budget proposal for the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17). In mid-April, the House Ways & Means Committee reported its budget to the full House for debate and vote. Then, in mid-May, the Senate Ways & Means Committee will report its budget to the full Senate for debate and vote. The House and Senate budgets will then be reconciled into a single budget which will return to each chamber for a vote. Once the House and Senate pass the reconciled budget, it will go to the Governor to be signed. Following any legislative overrides, the final budget would go into effect for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.
Program Date: Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Materials: Click HERE for the panelists’ materials:
Program Topic: Real estate is an essential part of most family’s financial portfolio and is the perhaps the most common asset an estate planner will need to consider in creating an estate plan. Real estate also requires many considerations in the estate planning context including tax planning, asset protection and conveyancing options. This program examined these issues and the most common estate planning techniques to deal with them.
Program Date: Friday, March 18, 2016
Materials: To view the program materials, click here.
Summary of Program Topic: The program provided an overview of estate planning with retirement benefits, including a discussion of the most effective ways to make retirement benefits payable to trusts, traps for the unwary, the practical issues that arise when it comes time to implement beneficiary designations, and ideas to fix issues that come up during estate administration.
Program Title: Trust Accountings and Terminations: Identifying Options and Addressing Risks
Program Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Materials: Because of file size, the handouts are broken into the following four parts:
Summary of Program Topic: The program explored various methods to render trust accounts, including final accounts. The discussion included accounting requirements for testamentary trusts, accounting clauses in trust instruments, options under the MUPC and MUTC, and managing risks in rendering final accounts. The panelist reviewed the trustee’s options to render accounts and ways to minimize the trustee’s liability upon termination of a trust.
The Massachusetts Probate & Family Court recently released part 1 of a 2-part update to its estate forms. A link to the Court’s March 4th “Decoder” (with further links to the new forms and instructions) is found HERE.
Program Date: Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Materials: Click HERE for the panelists’ materials:
Program Topic: The Panelists reviewed the key components of revocable trusts, including funding formulas, marital provisions, possible trust structures for children and other beneficiaries, and trustee provisions. They also provided drafting suggestions and advice on avoiding certain pitfalls when advising clients about establishing revocable trusts.
Program Date: Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Materials: Click on each of the following links for the panelists’ materials:
Program Topic: The speakers provided an overview of the federal gift tax return (Form 709). This form is used to report and pay tax on lifetime gifts and is an integral part of the estate planning process. The presentation covered the general purposes and structure of the form, as well as provided tips for preparing it.