O’Donald Law Offices’ estate planning practice is tailored to serve individuals in all circumstances and stages of life, including young families, elders and those caring for aging parents.
We believe that estate planning is to ultimately control your assets while you are alive, protect your assets for the benefit of your family and loved ones, provide for the management of your assets and your own personal care in the event of an incapacity, and to see that upon death your assets pass to the people you want to receive them, in the manner that you want, at the time you want, with the least possible cost for Federal or Massachusetts estate taxes and professional fees for probate attorneys and lawyers, and other professionals.
Our first objective is to gain a full understanding of your needs, desires, goals, and objectives, as well as your fears and concerns, as it relates to your family, your estate planning. This must take into consideration whether you need a will or a complex trust, are subject to Federal and/ or Massachusetts estate tax laws, so that we can assist you as your estate planning attorneys in determining what legal documents, last wills and testament, revocable living trusts, durable powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney, and other estate planning documents will be needed to achieve your estate planning objectives.
The probate administration process is time-consuming, public, and usually expensive. The goal of an estate plan is to avoid probate administration by using either a revocable trust or an irrevocable trust and funding the trust before death.
Our focus is not exclusively on the passage of wealth at death, but also taking into consideration goals for lifetime gifting (and the Federal gift tax), estate planning needs and concerns to plan for incapacity, elder law concerns for long term care and Medicaid planning, special needs planning, and for protecting assets during your lifetime, as well as end of life decisions involving living wills and other advance directives. We focus on your current needs, as well as long term goals.
O’Donald Law Offices offers the following estate planning services:
Basic estate planning. A basic individual estate plan involves preparation of a Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Living Will. A Will, which takes effect at your death, is a means of transferring your property to your intended beneficiaries and names guardians and conservators for your minor children. Your Will also appoints the person to have the important job of managing and distributing your property. The Power of Attorney names trusted individuals to make financial decisions for you if you become ill or incapacitated. The Health Care Proxy appoints an individual to make medical decisions for you if you cannot communicate with your doctor. The Living Will directs the care you wish to receive or not receive at the end of life. Taken together, these documents allow you to direct what will happen, and name the person with authority to act for you in situations where you are unable to act for yourself.
Estate planning to reduce estate and gift taxes. The federal gift and estate tax exemptions now exceed $5,000,000 for and individuals and $10,000,000 for married couples. Massachusetts has a $1,000,000 estate tax exemption and no gift tax. If your estate exceeds these amounts, you may need to plan to avoid having your survivors pay transfer tax at your death. Tax planning may also be necessary if you have remarried or if you have special assets such as a closely-held business, a family vacation home, or property in another state or country. A trust that maximizes the property that can pass tax free and incorporates deductions such as the marital or charitable deductions can eliminate or minimize these taxes. A trust can also make provisions for your specific family and business concerns. The trusts we might recommend to reduce taxes and provide the maximum benefit to your loved ones include Revocable Living Trusts, Marital Deduction Trusts, Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts, Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts, Qualified Personal Residence Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, and Pet Trusts.
Estate planning for special family matters. If you and your spouse have children from prior marriages, or if you have beneficiaries who are minors, disabled, or otherwise should not receive an inheritance outright, you may wish to include additional provisions in your plan to address these special circumstances. Our attorneys can draft trust provisions to your personal specifications to accomplish your estate planning objectives while accommodating your particular family situation.
Estate planning for individuals with disabilities and long term care needs. Elder Law is a specialized area of law that involves representing, counseling, and assisting the elderly and individuals with disabilities and their families in connection with a variety of legal issues. It is a holistic approach to the practice of law that focuses on the individual rather than a particular area of law. Our elder law attorneys are recognized throughout the state and nationally for their expertise in providing effective planning for individuals facing disabling illnesses. We focus on maximizing quality of life and independence with planning that enables the individual to leverage private assets with public benefits to pay for services not provided by public benefits programs. We strive to assist individuals and families in finding the most appropriate care in the least restrictive setting, most often the individual’s home. With the preparation of Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, and Special Needs Trusts, we are often able to avoid the involvement of the probate court in caring for these individuals. Where this is not possible, we provide a full range of services to clients filing for guardianship or conservatorship of individuals with disabilities.
For spouses concerned about care for a surviving spouse, we often recommend Special Needs Marital Deduction Trusts which minimize estate taxes and maximize possible MassHealth (Medicaid) eligibility for the future. Income-Only Trusts to hold real estate and See-Through Trusts to control a beneficiary’s access to retirement plans could also be part of an estate plan to provide for a person under disability.
Our elder law attorneys provide counseling for MassHealth eligibility and preparation of applications for community and facility-based programs. We also assist trial attorneys across the state with estate planning for injured clients who receive jury awards and personal injury settlements. This service includes drafting special needs trusts, assisting with selection of trustees, as well as filing petitions for conservatorships and guardianships.
Estate planning for retirement benefits. Perhaps you would like to name an individual beneficiary of your retirement plan but have concerns about that person having full control over plan assets. If you are in a second marriage, you may want your current spouse as a lifetime beneficiary with your children from the prior marriage as beneficiaries after your spouse. A specially drafted Marital Deduction Trust that pays annual distributions to the spouse for life and then pays out to the children can accomplish both goals and save estate taxes on the federal and state levels. Alternatively, you may wish to control the amount your child can access. A See-Through Trust can direct that the child receive only the minimum annual payment, giving a trustee control over distributions above minimums from the balance of the plan. This allows access to the plan through a trusted individual. Both the Marital Deduction Trust and the See-Through Trust preserve the income-tax deferred status of the plan for retained assets.
Charitable planning. If you have charitable interests, it may be advantageous for you to make your contributions through a Charitable Remainder Trust, a Charitable Lead Trust, or with a Remainder Interest Deed. The Charitable Remainder Trust allows you to make a gift that a designated charity receives in the future while you retain annual payments from the trust either for your lifetime or for a specific term. You will receive a current charitable deduction for the gift to the trust and, if you contribute appreciated property, there will be no capital gain tax due if the trust sells the property. A Charitable Lead Trust that goes into effect at your death allows you to provide a stream of payments to a designated charity for up to twenty years, with the balance remaining in the trust at the end of the term returned to your heirs. This arrangement often generates a significant deduction from estate taxes in the grantor’s estate. Finally, if you would like a favorite charity to receive a real estate gift at your death but need the use of the property while you are living, you can deed the property to the charity through a Remainder Interest Deed, retain use of the property for your lifetime and receive a current charitable deduction.