Our Services

Our Philosophy

Our practice is intentionally small to allow a certain level of intimacy with our clients and their families. We value the relationship. Our work is as much about documents as it is about the counseling that occurs during the process.

We approach all matters with the goal of understanding the clients’ true objectives first, before suggesting solutions. We want the result to be clients who are not only satisfied with our work product, but happy with the process and the service we have provided along the way. Ultimately, our goal is to provide our clients with peace of mind that their important affairs are in order.

Since we value the relationship, we expect to stay in touch with our clients. We want to see and hear from them regularly so that we can adjust their plans based on changes in their lives, the law and our learning.

Finally, we work as a team. Lawyers, paralegals, support team and strategic resource partners are all brought in to help, as appropriate, in achieving excellent results for our clients. We value a work environment that is supportive and respectful of one another and we expect nothing less from and for our clients.

Gay Estate Planning: What is it? Who needs it? and Why?

Planning for life events, including disability and death, are not unique to the gay community. What is unique, however, are the needs of one’s ‘chosen’ family that arise and are often at odds with the existing law, which may only recognizes traditional (next-of-kin or blood relative) families. We like to term this distinction the difference between one’s ‘logical’ family and one’s ‘biological’ family. Indeed, sometimes we do get to choose our families. Doing proper planning can ensure that you remain in control of your estate and that your wishes are carried out as planned.

States and the federal government provide varying rights to same-sex partners.  There are a variety of issues, different from those of traditional families, that should be addressed when considering one’s life and estate planning needs.

The material contained in this website is meant to identify many of these issues and provide a framework for addressing them. This material is not, however, intended as a substitute for seeking competent professional advice from a seasoned expert who understands and regularly works with these issues. To be clear, and with no disrespect intended, this does not mean simply finding an advisor who is ‘gay friendly’ – but – someone who has studied and worked with these issues and stays current with the rapidly changing climate in this area. There are an increasing number of such advisors nationally. We consider ourselves to be a part of this group and are happy to refer you to someone geographically closer to you if we cannot be of service or are not a good fit.

What is Gay Estate Planning?

While the process of life and estate planning often results in a common set of documents, we believe that, properly done, good gay estate planning includes counseling on important issues that factor into the ultimate results or documents. For example, a ‘Gay Estate Plan’ may result in virtually the same set of documents that are typically included in most traditional estate plans:

  • Will or Pour-over Will
  • Living Trust
  • Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Agent or Proxy
  • HIPAA Release
  • Living Will

Though the documents are similar, the counseling that will lead up to what should be contained in these documents may often be very different. Issues that are not normally discussed between heterosexual married couples should be discussed in this context, such as:

  • Whether to wed? The important legal and tax considerations of gay marriage
  • Who pays for what? The complexities of gift tax issues as between a same-sex couple.
  • Whether assets, after providing for each other, stay on one side of the family tree or the other?

The important point here is that when properly done, this process is more about the counseling that occurs while preparing the documents than the documents alone.

If we can help you with your Estate Planning, please do not hesitate to

contact us at (617) 716-0300

Wills and Trusts?

Decisions about one’s Last Will and Testament can be daunting. While the process of drafting a Will is not necessarily that complex, the ability to face one’s own mortality and make final decisions can be difficult. Adults of all ages should have a Will because tragic, unexpected events can occur at any age, however unlikely. It becomes increasingly important for same-sex couples who are in a relationship that may not be fully recognized by the law and/or one’s natural heirs to make an Estate Plan. The same is true for all LGBT people if their intended beneficiaries are not only their bloodline relatives.

A Will is an important part of every estate plan. A Will provides specific instructions about how and to whom a person’s estate shall be distributed upon their death. Without a valid Will, state laws known as “intestacy statutes” provide who will receive your assets. The government – and not you – would dictate how your property, your assets, and your other valuables would be divided among family members. More importantly, without a proper Will and accompanying estate plan, your loved ones may have to proceed with a costly and time-consuming probate process. A Will can help avoid this – especially when drafted in conjunction with simple trusts.

A Will provides certainty as to who is responsible for handling your estate – whatever size it may be. Even if you are not wealthy, a simple appointment of an executor in your Will can save your loved ones substantial money in court costs and allows you to choose who you want to be in charge after your death. The person (or persons) you appoint to serve as your Executor will be responsible for gathering your assets, paying debts, hiring any necessary professionals, such as to prepare tax returns, and making certain filings in court.  Finally, your Executor will have the duty to ensure that your remaining assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes.

Another important function of a Will is that it allows you to designate a guardian who would take care of your minor children in the unlikely event of an untimely death. While a difficult thing to discuss, it is better to decide before a tragedy who would care for your children and how they would be provided for in the future.  You can also designate in your Will  someone to serve as Conservator of your minor children to ensure that any money you leave them is properly managed on their behalf.  If you also establish a revocable trust, you can ensure proper management of finances even beyond when your children turn 18.

Estate planning goals evolve and change over time, just as your hopes, dreams, and you yourself change over time.  Your Will – along with other estate planning documents – can be amended as your personal circumstances, goals, and planning purposes change. We recommend a regular review of your estate plan to ensure that it addresses changes to the tax laws, your own personal family situation and best practices.  Additionally, other life events can change or even possibly invalidate your Will.  These include: marriage, re-marriage and divorce.  If any one of these events occurs, you should make sure to review your Will with a qualified attorney.

Trusts?

Put simply, a trust is a set of instructions for people near to you. As a legal matter, it is a contract that serves to manage assets by one person (or entity) – the Trustee – for the benefit of others (the beneficiaries). A trust creator (the “settlor” or “grantor”) creates the trust, usually contributes assets to the trust, appoints a trustee to manage the trust and its assets, and designates the beneficiaries of the trust. The Trustee has a legal responsibility to manage the assets of the Trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

Depending on how the trust document is set up, the beneficiaries can have some rights to the assets immediately. For example, the beneficiaries can be entitled to any interest or profit earned by the trust each year—and/or the beneficiaries can have rights down the road, like a trust that grants assets to the beneficiaries when the beneficiaries reach a certain age. Trusts can have many uses in estate and legacy planning because they can provide much more flexibility than a simple, outright grant of property. Below are some different types of trusts that can be used in estate planning:

Revocable Living Trust?

A Revocable Living Trust (also sometimes referred to as a Revocable Trust, Living Trust or even a ‘Loving Trust’) is established during the trustmaker’s life to determine disposition of his/her assets if he or she becomes mentally disabled and upon the trustmaker’s death. This type of trust, which can be changed by the trustmaker at any time for any reason, is central to most estate plans and is consequently often used in our practice. During the trustmaker’s life, the trustmaker (you) can be both the trustee and beneficiary of the trust, and therefore, have complete control over and derive all benefits from (and, alas, pay all taxes on) the trust assets during his/her (your) life. The Living Trust identifies specific trustees and beneficiaries to be automatically designated upon the disability or death of the trustmaker.

If properly done, these trusts can leave one’s assets in protected ways for loved ones and also provide a terrific vehicle for leaving instructions for loved ones. A fully funded Living Trust can also help avoid costly and time-consuming probate proceedings and mitigate the exposure to contests that sometime occur by disgruntled heirs post mortem. Care must be taken not only to fund these trusts (meaning change assets into the name of the trust) but to keep them funded during your lifetime. We therefore strongly encourage our clients to fund these trusts during their lifetimes, and we offer to assist them in this process.

Family and Marital Trusts?

These are types of sub-trusts that we often use in Revocable Living Trusts.  The purpose of these trusts is to maximize the amount of property that may be passed on to loved ones free of state and federal estate tax and to ensure that no estate taxes will be owed until the death of the surviving spouse.  To achieve these tax-saving goals, if the trustmaker dies with a taxable estate, the Living Trust is divided into sub-trusts. First, a Marital Trust is established for the sole benefit of the surviving spouse during his or her lifetime (which is often further divided for tax-saving purposes into two or more sub-trusts in order to take advantage of the different state and federal estate tax exemptions).  Second, is what is often referred to as the Family (or Credit Shelter) Trust, which can be for the benefit of the spouse, children, and/or any other beneficiaries that the trustmaker wishes.  There are countless variations of this type of trust that we could draft, depending upon a client’s circumstances and estate planning objectives.

When we draft these trusts, we also ask people to consider whether they want us to include remarriage protection provisions.  For example, if Bill & Mary Smith intend to leave their entire estate to the other when the first of them passes – we ask whether, in the event the survivor were to re-marry and, if later, that remarriage were to end in divorce, they would care if the surviving spouse’s inheritance were subject to that divorce proceeding ?  If they do care, we often suggest that they add certain re-marriage protection provisions to the Family and Marital Trusts.

Family and Marital Trusts become more complicated for gay couples depending on whether you live in a state that recognizes the marriage and whether you die in a state that recognizes the marriage. Our trusts are designed to provide ultimate flexibility – sometimes with ‘toggle’ provisions so that the operations will ‘toggle’ depending on the state of the law and the jurisdiction whose law applies. Given the complex and changing rules around gay marriage and its different application in states and under Federal law, we strongly encourage clients to seek advice from a seasoned expert in this field.

Irrevocable Trust?

In contrast to the revocable trust, an irrevocable trust is a trust that cannot be modified once created. Therefore, an irrevocable trust is best used when one wishes to make a permanent gift. Because the trustmaker has relinquished control over whatever assets may be put into these trusts, care must be taken in drafting the instructions for the Trustee and for use by the beneficiaries of the assets. There are many different types of irrevocable trusts, which depending on client objectives, we can use in addition to the Living Trust, to provide clients with a way to further maximize estate tax savings and protect and transfer wealth.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust?

These trusts, commonly referred to as “ILITs” are often used when people own large life insurance policies.  Although the proceeds of life insurance are not subject to income tax , those proceeds may be subject to state and/or federal estate tax unless the insurance policy is owned and maintained according to a properly drafted life insurance trust.  One of the great benefits of these types of trusts is that the life insurance proceeds can be distributed to beneficiaries in protected ways that protect it from creditors and predators.

Special Needs Trusts?

A special needs trust, or supplemental needs trust, is a trust whose beneficiary is an individual who has a disability, and who may be eligible for governmental assistance in the form of Supplemental Security Income, subsidized housing, Medicaid, etc.  Because these programs are generally needs-based, eligibility to receive benefits is dependent on falling below certain wealth thresholds.  Assets held in a Special Needs Trust for the benefit of a person with a disability (if set up properly) will not be counted towards determining that person’s total assets, so they will not impact eligibility for governmental aid. Federal law dictates that we use different kinds of special needs trusts, depending on the age of the disabled person and how the trust is funded.

There are a variety of other types of trusts that we use, depending on a client’s goals and objectives, including tax savings and Medicaid eligibility.

If we can help you with your Wills or Trusts, please do not hesitate to contact us at (617) 716-0300 or info@squillace-law.com.

 

The premiere law firm of Squillace and Associates serves the gay and lesbian community with estate planning, wills, trusts, business planning, asset protection, Medicaid planning, probate and trust administration services for clients in the Boston Massachusetts area including Allston, Brighton, Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, East Boston, Roxbury, South End, Dorchester, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Mattapan, and Charlestown and all of Massachusetts Boston Metro areas including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Chelsea, Medford, Everett, Watertown; South Shore areas like Quincy, Braintree, Milton, Hingham, and Cape Cod: Metrowest areas like Lexington, Concord, Wayland; and North Shore areas like Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Andover.

“The only thing in life that is certain is death and taxes.”
Benjamin Franklin.

Taxes are complicated. Estate taxes (sometimes referred to as Death Taxes) can be even more complicated. Layer on gay marriage and it becomes downright dizzying.

Here are the 3 most important things to know and remember about estate taxes:

1.  They are calculated based on all of the property you own or control at the time of your death. This can include, for example, proceeds from life insurance. This is so although beneficiaries generally do not owe income taxes on life insurance proceeds.

2.  Estate taxes are due and payable within 9 months of the date of death. Whether or not your property is liquid (e.g. real estate or a family business) , if you have a taxable estate the IRS and/or Massachusetts Department of Revenue will assess a tax on your estate as of the date of death  and payment becomes due in 9 months!

3.  These taxes are the only taxes in our system that are purely VOLUNTARY ! What we mean by this is that estate taxes can be substantially mitigated, if not entirely eliminated; but doing so requires pro-active planning. You cannot get out of paying income taxes…but estate taxes can legitimately be avoided.

There are Federal Taxes that may become due and often State taxes as well.

Federal Estate Taxes are currently set at 40% and for 2013, there is an exemption amount of $5,120,000.00.  This amount has been indexed to inflation and will adjust accordingly.  Federal estate taxes are usually paid on the passing of the second spouse, if married.  However, in order to recieve the complete amount of federal exemption, an estate tax return may still need to be filed for the first spouse.

MA Estate Taxes are currently ”decoupled” from the Federal law, which  means that they are no longer calculated, as they used to be, based on the amount of the federal estate tax. Today, any estate with a value over $1 million (and remember – this can include life insurance if it is not removed from your taxable estate) –may be subject to estate tax at the State level. The current rate is progressive and graduates up to 16%. Many people forget about the state estate tax or have old trusts that do not account for the current differences between the federal and the Massachusetts estate tax amounts, which may result in an unnecessary state estate tax being assessed upon the death of the first spouse to die.  We therefore strongly advise you to have your old trusts reviewed to make sure that your spouse or other heirs will not have to pay any unnecessary taxes.

Other States:  Property situated in other states may be subject to that state’s estate or inheritance taxes at death. Each state has different rules. Our firm works with a network of attorneys nationally to determine whether such taxes may become due and how to plan for them.

Since Massachusetts is a state that fully recognizes same-sex marriages for all state law purposes, it is possible to have an UNLIMITED marital deduction for same-sex surviving spouses upon the passing of the first spouse at the state level. Careful planning is needed, typically in the form of trusts, to ensure that the exempt amount (currently $1 million) can be available for both spouses so that the same assets are not subject to this transfer tax twice.

With the recognition of same-sex couples for federal tax reasons, a new challenge has emerged with couples that live in non-recognition states that also have estate and inheritance taxes. There can now be a conflict for the way exemptions work at the federal and state level.  A local law expert should be consulted. Our firm works closely with people in all these jurisdictions and is on top of the ever-changing dynamics.

Estate and Gift tx Returns:  Attorneys in our firm are fully conversant regarding estate, generation-skipping and gift tax liability and filing requirements.  We prepare Federal and Massachusetts estate tax returns, as well as Gift Tax returns.  It has been our experience that the attorneys who draft your estate plans or have counseled you regarding gifting, are often the ones best able to prepare those returns.  For more information, please contact our office.”

If we can help you with your Estate Taxes, please do not hesitate to contact us at (617) 716-0300 or info@squillace-law.com.

 

The premiere law firm of Squillace and Associates serves the gay and lesbian community with estate planning, wills, trusts, business planning, asset protection, Medicaid planning, probate and trust administration services for clients in the Boston Massachusetts area including Allston, Brighton, Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, East Boston, Roxbury, South End, Dorchester, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Mattapan, and Charlestown and all of Massachusetts Boston Metro areas including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Chelsea, Medford, Everett, Watertown; South Shore areas like Quincy, Braintree, Milton, Hingham, and Cape Cod: Metrowest areas like Lexington, Concord, Wayland; and North Shore areas like Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Andover.

The world of health care is becoming more and more complex. To meet the demands of this changing field, when you create your integrated Estate Plan with us, we help you also prepare the following documents: HIPAA Release, Health Care Proxy, Advance Directive (sometimes known as a ‘Living Will’) and a Power of Attorney. Each is explained in more detail below. For people in the LGBT community, we have learned that these documents may be even more important to ensure that a same-sex partner or loved one who is not a biological family member can have access to clinicians and the legal authority to decide important issues, particularly in the event of an emergency.

Although President Obama issued a Memorandum to the Secretary of HHS in 2010 directing regulations be adopted which affirm rights of patients to choose visitors and explicitly mentioned that hospitals should not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, much work is still needed in implementing these regulations. It is our view that everyone still needs these basic documents in place and readily available in the event of an emergency.

HIPAA RELEASE?

We have all heard and read much about privacy laws in recent years. In 1996, Congress enacted the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA is a major federal law that deals with a patient’s right to privacy with respect to medical records. An unfortunate side effect of this legislation, however, is that sometimes doctors, nurses, and other health care providers are reluctant to share medical information with a patient’s trusted loved ones. For instance, in some places, only a patient’s spouse – and not his/her children – will be allowed to see the records and/or speak with the professionals about the patient’s care plan. But you may want your spouse, children, and/or even in-laws, who may be health care professionals themselves, to be able to participate in these conversations.

A HIPAA Release is a document that allows doctors and other health care professionals to share your medical information with anyone you designate in the document, such as (but not limited to) a child, spouse, unmarried life partner, relative, friend, or other loved one.

HEALTH CARE PROXY?

A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that gives a close, trusted person the power to make all health care decisions for you in the event you cannot communicate your wishes directly to your health care providers. Massachusetts law requires that only one person at a time be designated as your health care agent in order to avoid disagreement among family members in the event of an emergency.

Such documentation can be especially important for same-sex spouses (although such couples are now legally recognized in Massachusetts, they will not be in every state where they might travel). Having a properly executed health care proxy is imperative in such situations.

ADVANCE DIRECTIVE

Many individuals have strong feelings about what they want to happen to them should they ever be in a persistent, irreversible vegetative condition at the end of life. The advance directive (also commonly known as a “Living Will”) is frequently used to address this situation. It can request that doctors not resuscitate you, or use extraordinary means to prolong your life, once certain critical irreversible milestones have passed, or provide whatever guidance you desire to communicate in these situations. Advance directive can help to alleviate the confusion and even extended, bitter disputes between loved ones and family members.

This document is meant to speak clearly to the family and doctors when the patient becomes incapable of speaking for him or herself.  We build an automatic “check” into the advance directive document by requiring that at least two doctors concur in the diagnosis of the patient, before  acting in accordance with the directives of the advance directive. This check can ensure that your interests are  being looked after and acted upon, based upon objective diagnoses. Although these directives not legally binding in Massachusetts, they provide substantial help to loved ones (and physicians) about what your wishes are in these circumstances.

POWER OF ATTORNEY

A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to give someone whom you trust (often referred to as “the Attorney-in-Fact) the authority to handle financial and other related matters for you (the “Principal”) in the event of your incapacity. This document is valuable in that it allows you to choose who shall act for you if you are incapacitated, rather than allowing a court to make this determination. The powers can be broad, and may even include gifting, especially if it is anticipated that that the Principal may want or need to transfer assets for tax or Medicaid planning purposes. It is for this reason that you should make sure that you have a power of attorney that is carefully crafted to your needs.  This document is effective only during the lifetime of the Principal.

USING THESE DOCUMENTS?

Studies show that 70% of Americans who create these very types of documents don’t use them! The most common reason is that the documents cannot be found at the actual moment of crisis. In order to address this problem, we have developed a system to store these documents electronically which allows clients to retrieve their documents at a moment’s notice. Every client for whom we provide these documents receives a wallet-sized card that has a personalized access code to a secure, on-line storage facility. Medical professionals can simply dial the number at any time of day or day of the week, and your documents will be sent via fax or pdf to the hospital or medical office where you are being treated. As part of this service, we also include certain emergency information you provide, such as who to call and in what order, whether you have any allergies or serious medical conditions, and the name and contact details of your Primary Care Physician. Clients find this to be an enormously helpful tool in times of need. It’s part of our way of creating Estate Plans that Work!

If we can help you with your Health Care and Disability, please do not hesitate to contact us at (617) 716-0300 or info@squillace-law.com.

 

The premiere law firm of Squillace and Associates serves the gay and lesbian community with estate planning, wills, trusts, business planning, asset protection, Medicaid planning, probate and trust administration services for clients in the Boston Massachusetts area including Allston, Brighton, Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, East Boston, Roxbury, South End, Dorchester, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Mattapan, and Charlestown and all of Massachusetts Boston Metro areas including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Chelsea, Medford, Everett, Watertown; South Shore areas like Quincy, Braintree, Milton, Hingham, and Cape Cod: Metrowest areas like Lexington, Concord, Wayland; and North Shore areas like Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Andover.

 

Planning for Families

All families are busy. Increasingly, our gay and lesbian clients are starting and having families. Indeed, we are pleased to be witness to the “Gay-be-boom.” Gay or straight, families with young children are particularly busy. We recognize this in our practice. To accommodate this inevitability, we provide flexible times for appointments (within reason) and try to be very efficient with this time. Children are always welcome in our office.

In addition to assisting families with planning for wealth transfer in protected ways, we spend considerable time with parents discussing choices for guardians of minor children. We always include an Emergency Guardianship Appointment document, which can be used, if necessary, when mom and dad are away or unavailable (but still alive).

We also offer parents the ability to leave a detailed letter of instructions to the Guardians and Trustees they have appointed for their minor children that can help in the event of an awful disaster. Remember the first time you left your children with a baby-sitter? Remember the note you left behind? When planning to (perhaps) leave the same people behind – but for much longer – doesn’t it make sense to leave a very detailed set of instructions?

Finally, we encourage all parents to consider doing a ‘Priceless Conversation’ that can memorialize some of their life’s lessons and will be cherished for generations to come.

Since family law is a highly specialized area, we do not provide advice on surrogacy or adoption issues, but instead have a terrific list of specialized, highly competent attorneys whom we could recommend to assist you with such decisions.

If we can help you with Planning for Families, please do not hesitate to contact us at (617) 716-0300 or info@squillace-law.com.

 

The premiere law firm of Squillace and Associates serves the gay and lesbian community with estate planning, wills, trusts, business planning, asset protection, Medicaid planning, probate and trust administration services for clients in the Boston Massachusetts area including Allston, Brighton, Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, East Boston, Roxbury, South End, Dorchester, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Mattapan, and Charlestown and all of Massachusetts Boston Metro areas including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Chelsea, Medford, Everett, Watertown; South Shore areas like Quincy, Braintree, Milton, Hingham, and Cape Cod: Metrowest areas like Lexington, Concord, Wayland; and North Shore areas like Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Andover.

 

Philanthropic Planning and Charitable Giving

In his book, ‘Beyond Death and Taxes,’ our friend Greg Englund posits that people often have a very simple choice when doing their estate planning: whether to engage in Voluntary Philanthropy or Involuntary Philanthropy (meaning taxes). The choice is yours.

In our practice, we regularly raise the issue of planned charitable giving with our clients. We help them understand the financial impact of these choices both during lifetime and at death. Sometimes, the result is incorporation of one’s favorite charity (or charities) in his life and estate plan.

There are a variety of ways to structure a charitable legacy. Lifetime gifts outright to one’s favorite charity are one common way. Charitable trusts, such as a Charitable Lead Trust or a Charitable Remainder Trust are another. Charitable Trusts may be a way to ‘split’ your interest in an asset in a way that gives you more current income tax deductions; reduces or eliminates your capital gains tax burden; and provides lifetime income to you while ultimately benefiting a charity or cause of your choice. Other vehicles we often discussed with clients are Donor Advised Funds and Private Foundations that can provide current income tax deductions, which is particularly important in high wage earning years. Both of these vehicles can provide the donor(s) with more control over who the beneficiaries are over time – and – can provide a structure to pass along the control of grants to surviving partners, friends or family members who can decide how and when to spray out future grants. This list is long and the choices on how to structure these plans are vast. Ultimately, it depends heavily on your current financial (and tax) situation, what you expect your situation to be in the future, and, of course, your overall goals and objectives.

Our firm can help you decide which vehicles and instruments work best for you. Where appropriate, our firm connects clients with The Boston Foundation, an organization that provides donors with a range of services to support their giving programs. For more information on this and other programs offered visit www.bostonfoundation.org. The Boston Foundation is in the process of establishing a permanent fund to endow LGBT causes well into the future. To the extent one wishes to assist with legacy grants that will last for a long time, this can be a cost effective option. There are other terrific organizations who work with our community in this area including our friend, Tracy Gary and for the more wealthy donors, Tim Gill. Tim holds an annual conference ‘Out Giving’ where major donors share ideas and target causes for the most impactful giving. There are a variety of other resources, depending on your interests, that we would be happy to introduce you to based upon our work nationally, such as Advisors in Philanthropy.

Finally, keep in mind that planning in this area can easily be joined with retirement planning goals. We can work closely with your financial planner to help accomplish this.

Historically, our community has been strong in fundraising, particularly for urgent causes, such as HIV and Equal Marriage. We know, however, from our work on community boards that most LGBT organizations do not have any or any meaningful endowments. Considering a planned gift, even if just for a portion of one’s estate plan, can make a meaningful difference by helping the community to begin to create its own endowment, so that the institutions we’ve come to know and respect can continue in perpetuity.

If we can help you with your Charitable Giving, please do not hesitate to contact us at (617) 716-0300 or info@squillace-law.com.

 

The premiere law firm of Squillace and Associates serves the gay and lesbian community with estate planning, wills, trusts, business planning, asset protection, Medicaid planning, probate and trust administration services for clients in the Boston Massachusetts area including Allston, Brighton, Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, East Boston, Roxbury, South End, Dorchester, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Mattapan, and Charlestown and all of Massachusetts Boston Metro areas including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Chelsea, Medford, Everett, Watertown; South Shore areas like Quincy, Braintree, Milton, Hingham, and Cape Cod: Metrowest areas like Lexington, Concord, Wayland; and North Shore areas like Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Andover.

We are often asked in our counseling practice to help couples who have been together for a long time to evaluate the legal and tax consequences of marriage in the context of doing life and estate planning. We begin these conversations with a hearty acknowledgment that there are (or at least can be) other very important considerations that factor into this major life decision, such as love and commitment, family, values, etc..

WHETHER TO WED?

What follows is a framework for discussions we encourage every couple to have with their advisors about whether (from a legal and tax perspective) it makes sense to get married ?

Consider the asset situation now and in the future.  Who owns what?  How is it titled?  Does anyone expect to inherit something and is that intended to be ‘community’ property or kept separate?

Consider the goals and objectives?  Is there an intent to ‘equalize’ partners from a financial point of view?  What, if any, gifts have been made?  Has the home been (or will it be) re-titled?  Who paid for it?

  1. Does either party hold life insurance for the benefit of the other?
  2. Are children involved?  Children from a prior marriage?
  3. Prior spouses?  Have prior marriages been properly (legally) dissolved?
  4. If an estate tax may become due upon passing, is it important for the surviving spouse not to  have to liquidate assets to pay the tax ?
  5. How do the parties feel about being able to bring lawsuits in the event of a wrongful death accident?
  6. What if it doesn’t work out: where might they live?  Will the state they reside in recognize the marriage for purposes of divorce?
  7. Is a Pre-Nuptial (or Post-Nuptial) agreement advisable to segregate assets?
  8. Who do you want to be deciding things and inheriting things?

These are just some of the questions that we think are important to discuss with couples when considering, at least from a legal and tax perspective, whether it makes sense to get married.  Oftentimes, the state estate tax exposure can be compelling enough.  For example, in Massachusetts, for for many couples, it can save literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Each situation is different – so – please consult a competent advisor to review your personal financial situation and even model out scenarios for the estate tax cost ‘with’ and ‘without’ marriage – it can make a big difference!

Whether or not a couple decides to get married, there are still issues worthy of discussion, such as who pays for what and what would each party’s respective rights and responsibilities be in the event the relationship ends.  We often advise couples on Cohabitation Agreements and Joint Ownership Agreements.

If we can help you with any legal aspects of your marriage, please do not hesitate to contact us at (617) 716-0300 or info@squillace-law.com.

 

The premiere law firm of Squillace and Associates serves the gay and lesbian community with estate planning, wills, trusts, business planning, asset protection, Medicaid planning, probate and trust administration services for clients in the Boston Massachusetts area including Allston, Brighton, Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, East Boston, Roxbury, South End, Dorchester, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Mattapan, and Charlestown and all of Massachusetts Boston Metro areas including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Chelsea, Medford, Everett, Watertown; South Shore areas like Quincy, Braintree, Milton, Hingham, and Cape Cod: Metrowest areas like Lexington, Concord, Wayland; and North Shore areas like Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Andover.

 

The premiere law firm of Squillace and Associates serves the gay and lesbian community with estate planning, wills, trusts, business planning, asset protection, Medicaid planning, probate and trust administration services for clients in the Boston Massachusetts area including Allston, Brighton, Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, East Boston, Roxbury, South End, Dorchester, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Mattapan, and Charlestown and all of Massachusetts Boston Metro areas including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Chelsea, Medford, Everett, Watertown; South Shore areas like Quincy, Braintree, Milton, Hingham, and Cape Cod: Metrowest areas like Lexington, Concord, Wayland; and North Shore areas like Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Andover.

Here is a list of estate planning frequently asked questions and questions people usually have around probate and trust settlement. The questions and answers always assume a “typical” case, and almost no case is typical. Nothing here should be construed as or a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney. If you or your family have any particular questions, please contact us for an appointment to help answer to your questions.

Question: How much money do I need to have to know I need an estate plan?
Answer: The real question is – how much is enough to lose ? Or better yet, how much do you want to protect for your loved ones. Frequently, people do not think they have a considerable “estate” and don’t need to do any planning. Estate planning is an act of love.   If you have a plan in place, when your loved ones are grieving don’t need to do as much and your affairs are in good order. Any amount is enough to protect. But, certainly, if you own a home; have retirement assets or have children – you should consider doing some form of estate planning. Additionally, if you have minor or college age children or your natural family is not the intended beneficiary of your estate, planning is essential.

Question: My loved one died, what do I do now?
Answer: Consult a lawyer. While you do need to allow yourself to grieve and be comforted by those around you, sometimes there are certain time sensitive matters that need to be dealt with by a professional. If a probate is needed in Massachusetts, you have thirty days from date of death to file the Will with the appropriate Probate Court or begin other proceedings. If there are pressing concerns, we can begin sooner with a temporary appointment. For more information on Probate – see that tab.

Question: I am named as a Trustee in a Trust, what does that mean?
Answer: That means you have a legal fiduciary duty to act prudently, follow all instructions in the trust and generally handle matters in the best interest of the Trust’s beneficiaries. It carries a wide variety of responsibilities depending on the type of trust and depending on what state laws govern the Trust. You should bring a copy of the Trust with you to discuss with one of our attorneys who can help explain your responsibilities under your Trust.

Question: How often do I need to update my estate plan?
Answer: We recommend that all clients re-visit this estate plan annually. In fact, we offer an Annual Maintenance Program to help clients easily check in to see if there are any changes in their Lives; in the Law or in our Learning about best practices. If this is not done, at the very least we recommend clients update their plans after major life events such as a marriage or birth of a child. There are other events such as a sale of a business, moving out of state, and significant changes in assets (like buying or selling a home) that warrant review.

Question: What happens if I do not have a Will?
Answer: Each state has comprehensive laws that will determine what happens to your property when you’re gone if you’ve not done an estate plan. The process is called intestacy probate. Typically, your property will pass to your closest relatives and family. This process is cumbersome for the survivors and will wind up being costly to your estate. Sometimes intestacy laws may apply in ways that do not reflect your intentions at all. In addition, not having an estate plan means that there are many missed opportunities to plan for tax consequences, protect assets or establish guardianships for minor children.

Question: How much time does it take to settle an estate? Trust?
Answer: It is not everyone’s favorite answer, but it depends. It depends on how up-to-date the estate plan documents are; what they say; how well they are drafted and whether the family and loved ones understand them (or feel a need to contest them). We find, as a general matter, that a fully funded Revocable Living Trust is the easiest and quickest type of estate to settle for a family. A simple will, often takes the longest, particularly if it is out of date. Additionally, if there are trusts involved, trust settlement can involve considerable work if the trusts are not fully funded before death. Each case is different. And, with all the facts, we can give you a better idea of what the process and timetable would be for you and your family.

Question: If I live out of state, can you help with my estate planning?
Answer: Yes. Although we do most of our estate planning for Massachusetts residents, we do work with people around the country. If you are a resident in another state, we can work with you but may need to collaborate with an attorney in your state, particularly as it pertains to real property.  Lawyers in our firm are admitted to practice in Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C.  We belong to a national group of attorneys called Wealth Counsel and we can help you find someone locally if we are not able to best serve you ourselves.

Question: Can I leave something other than cash (like valuable antiques or art) to a Charity?
Answer: Generally, yes, assuming the Charity is able to accept the gift. There are many planning techniques to leave unique assets like real estate, individual stocks, retirement accounts, artwork, antiques, and other tangible personal property to a charity. When properly done, this can also save you (or your estate) certain taxes – like capital gains taxes and give you (or your estate) additional income (or estate) tax deductions. There are also interesting ways to use life insurance to enhance charitable giving. See our Charitable Giving tab for a broader discussion of options for you to consider. We encourage you to contact one of our attorneys to discuss these alternative choices for charitable giving.

Question: Since your offices are in Boston, do you only work with clients in Massachusetts?
Answer: We have clients all over the state and country. Most of our clients come from Suffolk, Middlesex, Essex, Plymouth and Norfolk Counties. Of course, if you live in Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, Barnstable, Dukes, Bristol, Berkshire, Franklin or Nantucket counties, we are able to work with you but recognize there may be some inconvenience for face to face meetings. We value our client relationship, so we will want to establish a good working relationship with the right balance of meetings and conversations. Most of our meetings do happen in our Boston office. We strive to strike the right balance with our clients and will plan the meetings that will be convenient for train or ferry schedules. After an initial meeting, however, much of the work can be done remotely via phone, fax and e-mail.

Question: What happens if I outlive my pet that I have created a Pet Trust for?
Answer: If the Pet Trust has been set up properly, that gift would normally lapse if you survive your pet. There are really a variety of choices you could make. You could choose to set aside some amount for the care and well being of your pet and in the event it were not all used up, it could be donated to a local animal shelter or other animal charity such as the ASPCA or to any beneficiary you choose.

Question: Do my kids have to know what I’ve decided to leave them in my estate plan? Can you help me explain this to my kids?
Answer: We are not able to disclose details of your estate plan to anyone without your permission. This would include your children. We often encourage families, however, to have a family meeting to discuss estate plans and how things will work after your passing. Usually in those meetings we discuss the mechanics of how the plan will work, and do not typically disclose the specific bequests or amounts of those bequests. If, however, there is considerable wealth being passed along to another generation, we often suggest some counseling with professional wealth counselors to help families learn how to discuss these delicate issues.

Question: How do I make sure my granddaughter gets a certain pair of earrings she has always liked?
Answer: You can always put such a bequest in your Will or your Trust. We also include in our estate plans a Memorandum of Tangible Personal Property. This Memorandum allows you to specify who you would like your personal property distributed to, such as the special pair of earrings for that lovely granddaughter.

Question: How do I change an Irrevocable Trust I created?
Answer: It’s really, really difficult. The assumption is that an irrevocable trust is just that – not revocable – meaning, not changeable. That said, if circumstances change such that the purpose of the trust would be frustrated by not making a change – then, often a change can be made. This will usually involve needing to go to court to get a Judge’s approval and if there are charitable beneficiaries involved, sometimes too the approval of the Attorney General’s office is required. More modern (well drafted) trusts provide for reformation of trusts by use of a Trust Protector. When properly drafted, this mechanism may avoid needing to go to court to make changes. You will always want to carefully consult with an attorney for these matters.

Question: Can’t I just download a will or trust off line?
Answer: Yes. And, it may work. The problem is, you may never know if it doesn’t. Only your loved ones will know and only after you’re gone. Of course, we are biased on this, but we tailor estate plans to fit individual goals and family needs. A downloadable document may not provide you the protections or options that we are able to provide. And, more importantly, you’ll have peace of mind if you work with a professional. Also, beware of the hidden costs in actually administering the form documents after you’re gone. These too, can be considerable.

Question: I am gay and married in Massachusetts, can’t I just have an estate plan like my straight neighbors?
Answer: Maybe. Gay and lesbian residents of any state that allows equal marriage are entitled to the same rights as other residents in their state. The federal government is implementing rules on recognizing your marriage, but each agency is at different points in the process.   There is a large dis-connect between recognition and non-recognition states and how tax treatment is handled.  GLBT estate planning is complex and our firm is committed to providing excellent planning and support to our gay and lesbian clients.  For more information on these wealth transfer strategies, please contact us for an appointment.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this FAQ section and throughout the website is offered for informational purposes only. Nothing about these questions should be considered legal advice. Please review our Terms of Use policy closely for additional information. Your individual circumstances and facts can dramatically change what legal advice may be offered. You should consult with an attorney.

 

The premiere law firm of Squillace and Associates serves the gay and lesbian community with estate planning, wills, trusts, business planning, asset protection, Medicaid planning, probate and trust administration services for clients in the Boston Massachusetts area including Allston, Brighton, Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, East Boston, Roxbury, South End, Dorchester, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Mattapan, and Charlestown and all of Massachusetts Boston Metro areas including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Chelsea, Medford, Everett, Watertown; South Shore areas like Quincy, Braintree, Milton, Hingham, and Cape Cod: Metrowest areas like Lexington, Concord, Wayland; and North Shore areas like Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Andover.