Tag Archives: #estateplanning #trustsandestates #probate #elderlaw

Demystifying Estate Taxes

Don’t Let Estate Taxes Overwhelm You!  We Are Here To Help!

by Andrea Rutherford, Esq.

Estate Tax is a tax that must be paid “off the top” of your estate.

If you leave more than $1 million in assets, Massachusetts will collect estate tax before your assets can be transferred to your heirs.  And it’s expensive.  The rate maxes out at 16 pc and it’s applied to ALL of your assets – your home, your financial assets, your retirement savings, transfer-on-death accounts and even life insurance payouts.

Like other taxes, there are exemptions.  Setting up your estate correctly can add as much as another $1 million in exemptions, bringing your total tax-free estate to $2 million.  But the exemptions have to be built into your estate plan (in the form of a revocable or irrevocable trust) while you are still alive.  This is an easy and inexpensive estate planning tool that will more than pay for itself after your death.

New Hampshire residents – no estate tax in your state.  Maine and Vermont residents – your exemption is $5 million.

Our estate planning attorneys will be happy to explain tax planning trusts.  The first consultation is always free of charge.

Estate Tax Planning can feel very overwhelming!  Call us to talk about your estate taxes or estate planning in general. The first consultation is always free and our Attorneys are ready to assist you!

Your Will is Safe with Dalton & Finegold!

Don’t hide your Will under a chair cushion like Aretha Franklin!

by Andrea Rutherford, Esq.

Estate Planning made headlines last week…

with Michigan Court upholding Aretha Franklin’s 2014 Will – even though it was handwritten (and barely legible), written on a notepad and hidden under a chair cushion.  The Will differed in several respects from a 2010 version found in a safe.

The worst part of this story is that Aretha’s four kids have spent five years and nearly One Million Dollars fighting over the Will.  And two of her children are reportedly not speaking to each other.

Don’t let this happen to you!

First of all, the outcome of this case would have been worse in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. Here, a Will has to be signed by two witnesses – and they can’t be relatives or beneficiaries. Since neither of Aretha’s Wills were witnessed, she would have been considered intestate, ensuring an even longer and more expensive court fight.

At Dalton & Finegold, all the Wills we draft are witnessed and notarized.

Second, keep your estate planning documents in a safe place. Or, even better, have Dalton & Finegold store your originals. We keep our clients’ documents indefinitely in secure storage. All your heirs have to do is give us a call.

Third, review your estate plan regularly.  The disputed issue in the Aretha Franklin case was a provision requiring two of her sons to earn business degrees before they inherit.  These kinds of clauses are not uncommon. But circumstances change and a provision that makes sense when your kids are young maybe inappropriate when they are older.

Dalton & Finegold attorneys will be happy to review your existing estate plan, prepare a summary and highlight any provisions that might be out of date.

Call us to talk about a new or existing estate plan. The first consultation is always free and our Attorneys are ready to assist you!

Avoid DIY Estate Planning!

Althea Volper, Esq.


by Althea B. Volper, Esq.

Creating your own estate plan online can be tempting as a convenient and cost-saving option.  There are many websites offering cheap (or free) estate planning documents.  Don’t do it!  These websites are no substitute for professional legal advice from a licensed, experienced estate planning attorney.  The risks of cutting corners on your estate plan far outweigh the savings.  There are many pitfalls associated with creating an estate plan yourself online.  For example, your do-it-yourself (DIY) estate plan may:


  1. Fail to meet the legal requirements: Laws regarding Wills and other estate planning documents such as Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies and Advanced Directives vary from one state to another.  Using an online template may not ensure that your estate planning documents meet the legal requirements in your jurisdiction.
  2. Contain ambiguity and errors: Websites offering online Wills and other estate planning documents rely on your inputting information to produce documents.  This means that any mistakes or unclear language that you enter becomes part of your legal document—this can lead to confusion, legal disputes, and even court intervention.
  3. Lack customization: DIY estate planning websites often utilize one-size-fits-all templates, which fail to consider your and your family’s unique circumstances.
  4. Lack professional legal advice: When preparing your own estate planning documents using an online interface, there may not even be a human reviewing your plan before it is produced, let alone an experienced legal professional.  Effective estate planning involves complex issues, such as asset protection for beneficiaries, tax implications, and guardianship arrangements.  An estate plan produced without professional legal review may contain errors or omissions that could have long-term consequences for you and your loved ones.
  5. Lack privacy and security: We all know that online platforms can collect, store, or sell your personal information and data, including sensitive financial information and details about your family members.  Entering this information into an unsecured online platform runs the risk of this information falling into the wrong hands.


To avoid these pitfalls, consult our team of experienced estate planning attorneys to set up a complimentary consultation.

Our Estate Planning Attorneys can tailor a Trust to your family’s needs.   The first consultation is always free of charge.

If you have questions about your Estate Planning needs, our Attorneys are ready to assist you!

What on Earth is a Trust?

by Andrea Rutherford, Esq.

Trusts used to be for the richest of the rich. Now it seems like everyone has a Trust. So what is it?  Trust me (!), the term “Trust” even intimidates law students. But the idea is actually quite simple.

Our Estate Planning Attorneys can tailor a Trust to your family’s needs.

History of a Trust

Trusts were invented 500 years ago by English noblemen who had wayward children. When a nobleman (called the GRANTOR in Trust-speak) died, he would leave his property to a trusted friend – often the family lawyer (the TRUSTEE) – instead of leaving it to the wayward children. The Trustee signed a written promise not to use the property for himself. Sure, he was paid a fee. But he had to use the property for the wayward children (known as the BENEFICIARIES).  And the Trustee had to follow RULES left behind by the nobleman. For example, the rules might say “pay for my wayward son to go to knight school (get it? “knight school!), but don’t pay his gambling debts.”

So really, what is a Trust?

So a Trust is a written arrangement among a grantor, a trustee and a beneficiary.  The Trust has legally enforceable rules and it applies to certain property.

Note that a Trust is essentially doing the same thing that a Will would do – leaving the nobleman’s stuff to his wayward children. So a trust is an alternative to a Will.

Over the centuries years, clever lawyers have figured out all sorts of bells and whistles that make Trusts more attractive than Wills.  We know that a Trust can protect assets from your kids’ gambling losses. Your Trust can also protect your assets from your kids’ divorces and lawsuits.  Your Trust can shelter assets from estate taxes and avoid probate. A Trust can include special plans for underage children or disabled adults.  Your Trust can set aside funds for your grandchildren’s college tuition.

And over time, Trusts have become simpler, less restrictive, easier to change and less expensive to create.

Our Estate Planning Attorneys can tailor a Trust to your family’s needs.   The first consultation is always free of charge.

If you have questions about your Estate Planning needs, our Attorneys are ready to assist you!

Medicaid Doesn’t Have to be a Mystery!

Ashley Evirs, Esq.

May is National Elder Law Month

by Ashley Evirs, Esq.

It can be daunting when a loved one requires facility or skilled nursing care. Even more intimidating is the price tag that comes along with it! Since the month of May is designated as National Elder Law month, we are doing our part to educate seniors and their loved ones on Medicaid (here in Massachusetts, called “MassHealth”) eligibility rules and strategies to save assets from government liens and/or reimbursement.

Protect and preserve your legacy through proper long term care planning.

Understanding Medicaid

Medicaid is a federally funded program to assist seniors paying for long-term skilled nursing care, and each state is allowed to put eligibility restrictions in place for the benefit. To make matters more confusing, there are different rules for individuals (single persons, widows and widowers, unmarried cohabitants) and married persons. Working with a general practitioner or an estate planner not well versed in this field could be detrimental and financially harmful for your family as there are various asset and income restrictions (depending on which program you are applying for), a five-year lookback rule and various transfer consequences to be mindful of.

We develop a personalized approach to Long Term Care

Similar to our estate planning approach, we know that long-term care planning is not ‘one size fits all’. We will meet with you to hear your specific concerns, learn about your assets, and help devise a customized plan to protect your assets and spend down your resources.

We have successfully helped families protect and preserve their legacy, all the while maintaining a level of control and use of the assets our clients are comfortable with.

Reach out for a copy of our current MassHealth Eligibility Factsheet and to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys to learn more about your available long-term care planning options.

Health Care Proxies and Powers of Attorney – Two MUST HAVE Documents

Creating Simple but Powerful Protections

It can be frightening to think about potential health issues, but there are two simple documents that can help ease these fears: the Health Care Proxy* and the Power of Attorney. Taking the time to create these documents can protect your health, your finances, and your family during difficult situations. These documents give you a voice when you cannot speak for yourself.

The Health Care Proxy and the Power of Attorney serve a common purpose: naming an “agent,” such as a friend or a family member, to act as your voice in the event of incapacity. The Health Care Proxy allows this agent to make medical decisions for you, while the Power of Attorney allows your agent to manage your financial affairs. These agents – who can but do not have to be the same person – can step in when you clearly cannot take care of yourself.

At first glance, these two documents may seem unnecessary, especially if you are young and do not have any serious medical issues. However, the future is unpredictable – and these simple documents can ensure that, even in the worst case scenario, you are being cared for by someone you trust. The Health Care Proxy and the Power of Attorney can serve as your safety net, while also giving your family peace of mind during difficult times.

No Protection Can Cause Unexpected Expenses

By contrast, not having these documents can prove inconvenient, confusing, and even detrimental to one’s health and finances. Without a Health Care Proxy, a court may need to appoint a guardian to determine your medical treatment, which means administrative headaches and court expenses. Similarly, the absence of a Power of Attorney could lead to court proceedings to appoint a conservator to manage your property and finances, which means additional expenses and inconvenience. In these situations, the court may not have context for your preexisting relationship, if any, with the appointed person – which can ultimately leave you under the care of someone you would never have chosen yourself.

By creating a Health Care Proxy and a Power of Attorney, you can ensure that those you trust will be able to look out for your best interests when you cannot. These two simple documents can prove invaluable in protecting yourself and your family.

Creating these documents is easy and ultimately safeguards you.  Fill out the form below to speak with one of our estate planning attorneys today to start creating your estate plan. The first meeting is always free.

*The Health Care Proxy may also be called a Healthcare Power of Attorney. The term “Health Care Proxy” is used throughout this piece to prevent confusion.