Each estate settlement is unique, and Marshall, Crane & McAloon will guide you through each step, with the overall goal of providing the most efficient and cost effective settlement.
Estate administration is the process of settling a person’s affairs after death. The steps required for estate administration vary, depending on the types of assets owned, how the assets are owned, and the value of the assets owned. Estate administration often includes Probate Court filings, estate tax returns and trust administration.
Probate is one of the processes for transferring assets at death.
Probate avoidance is often part of estate planning. However, if a probate administration is needed, both the costs of, and the length of time for, the probate process can be greatly reduced by (i) having appropriate estate planning documents in place; and (ii) having a knowledgeable attorney guide the Personal Representative (“Executor”) through the process.
Although under Massachusetts law, probate administrations cannot be fully completed until the one-year anniversary of the date of death, the majority of the process can be completed prior to this time.
In some instances, and, unfortunately, even with proper estate plan documents in place, conflicts arise if someone is not happy with the decedent's plan. The Probate Court has procedures for raising and addressing these conflicts, and Marshall, Crane & McAloon is able to provide representation in such matters; even in instances where litigation results.
Massachusetts imposes an estate tax filing requirement on estates over One Million dollars. Although this seems like a high figure, many people are surprised to learn the value of their estate reaches this amount, since it includes assets such as real estate, life insurance, retirement accounts and both individually and jointly owned investments.
Certain other states have their own estate tax system as well.
Finally, there is currently a federal estate tax system in place.
While a properly drafted estate plan may eliminate any estate tax liability, it will not eliminate the need to file any required estate tax returns.
When someone dies and owns real estate in Massachusetts, there is an automatic Massachusetts estate tax lien which attaches to the real estate, whether or not taxes are actually owed. This lien must be released as part of the estate settlement process.
Estate settlements conclude with the assets passing to the beneficiaries (i.e. going where they are supposed to go).
A trust is often part of the estate plan. Trusts do not always distribute assets outright to the beneficiaries. Often times, the trust property is broken up into separate trust shares, and these shares are managed for various beneficiaries for various periods of time. Funding the trust shares and advising the trustees as to their responsibilities, such as when and how to make distributions and the filing of income tax returns, is an important step of the estate settlement process.
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