Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Massachusetts Estate Planning Tips | 3 Estate Planning New Year's Resolutions

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Thu, Jan 10, 2013

The New Year is filled with resolutions: lose weight, save money or plan a vacation, but in the thick of things it is easy to forget about planning ahead as you get a little older.

In this article, we review 3 Estate Planning Resolutions that should be part of everyone's 2013.

You Could Lose Everything  Unless You Act Now

1. Review your beneficiary designations.

While the terms of your Will control the distribution
of your probate property, beneficiary designations determine who will inherit your non-probate
assets. Non-probate assets include brokerage or bank accounts with TOD (“Transfer on Death”) or POD (“Payable on Death”) beneficiaries, life insurance proceeds, assets held in a living trust, property held in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship, etc. The beneficiary designations on these assets are just as important to your estate plan as the naming of beneficiaries in your Will because these beneficiaries will also inherit from your estate.

estate plan, 2013, new year

To conduct your review, identify the beneficiaries you have designated for each asset. If you have married, divorced, had children, or experienced any other significant change in family circumstances, you may wish to alter certain designations. If your current designations leave property outright to a minor or an individual with special needs, you may want to consider protecting those assets for your beneficiaries.  For more information on protecting your beneficiaries' inheritances, call our office at (781) 237-2815.

2. Plan for the disposition of your digital assets.

Sure, you know who will inherit your house and your IRA after you are gone, but what will happen to your emails? The tax records stored on your hard drive? Your Facebook page? The family photos in your Flickr galleries?

If your estate plan fails to address these and other digital assets, your loved ones may have trouble accessing financial accounts or lose precious family memories. Furthermore, failing to close online financial accounts may even expose your estate to the risk of identity theft.

Start by making an inventory of your digital assets then give your loved ones or executor instructions regarding what you would like to happen to each asset. For example, are any of your bills on auto-pay? Should your Facebook page be taken down?

3. Schedule a review of your estate plan.

Generally speaking, it is a good idea to review your estate plan every year. This is particularly
important if you have recently experienced a significant change in circumstances, such as a birth or death in the family, a marriage or divorce, or a change in financial circumstances.

As we move into 2013, it is critically important to schedule a time to have your estate plan reviewed by our team of professionals, to be sure that your spouse, home and life savings will be protected.


At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops. Call 800-964-4295 to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your beneficiaries, digital assests, Estate Plan and legacy.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: Estate Planning, 2013, revocable living trust, benefit, plans, New Year's Resolutions, Beneficiary, assets

Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney | The Revocable Living Trust

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Sep 14, 2012

The Revocable Living Trust... how can it help you protect your assets?

At the Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center, we receive lots of questions about Revocable Living Trusts. Most people have heard about them, but very few actually understand what they are.revocable living trust, revocable trust, wills

A Revocable Living Trust is a legal document that includes instructions regarding what should be done with your assets when you die. Now, you may be thinking – isn’t that what a Will does? Yes, that’s exactly what a Will does; however, the key difference between a Will and a Trust is that a Trust prevents the assets in the Trust from being probated (tied up in the court system) at your death – a Will does not.

Revocable Living Trusts are not the only way to avoid probate. Jointly titling your assets or designating beneficiary designations are two other commonly-used methods of avoiding probate. While joint ownership and/or beneficiary designations may be appropriate in certain cases, there are other situations where having your assets in a Trust is the best course of action.

Trusts are not nearly as complicated as many people believe them to be. The first step is to meet with an attorney who is experienced in drafting Revocable Living Trusts and who can explain the process to you. You will become the Grantor of the Trust – meaning the Trust belongs to you and only you can make changes to your Trust. You will also need someone as Trustee to manage the assets in your Trust. You can be your own Trustee or designate someone else (a family member, friend, or corporate trustee like a bank) to serve as Trustee. Finally, you will designate beneficiaries—people or organizations who will receive your assets when you die.

This is where a Trust is extremely useful. For example, you may have three adult children and you may want all of your assets to pass in equal shares to the three kids upon your death, and should one of your children die before you do, you want his share to go to his kids. This can easily be accomplished with a Trust but would not be possible by naming the three kids as joint owners on your assets nor would it be possible by naming the three kids as beneficiaries.

This is just one example of the potential benefit of using a Revocable Living Trust to avoid probate. Revocable Living Trusts are also helpful should your desired method of distribution be more complicated. For instance, you may want a portion of your assets to go to your grandchildren, but perhaps they are all teenagers right now. You could set up your Trust such that your grandchildren won’t receive their share of the assets until they each reach the age of 25. On the other hand,  you may have an adult daughter with a developmental disability who won’t be able to manage her share of the assets upon your death. In that case, you may choose to have her share of the assets continue to be help by the Trust after your death so the Trustee can mange her share for her.

Situations like the two just mentioned can only be handled through a Revocable Living Trust –they cannot be accomplished through joint tenancy or beneficiary designations.

One last point –a Trust by itself is worthless unless the Trust has been funded. Once the Trust document is drawn up according to your wishes and has been signed, you must transfer your assets into the Trust. This means you will need to re-title your assets, such as real estate, stocks and CD’s in the name of your Trust.

Though having a Revocable Living Trust in place can help you simplify the administration of your financial affairs after your death and ensure your wishes are carried out, there are a lot of issues to consider when deciding if a Trust is right for you.

Research shows that 86% of trusts don’t work.  That’s why we developed our Unique Self-Guided 19-Point Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection Legal Guide, so you can learn where problems may exist in your planning as well as opportunities for improvement and how to implement a plan to protect your spouse, home, family, and life savings.


Click Here to Download our Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection  Legal Guide


We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops to learn more about our process and what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy. To register for a seat at an upcoming workshop call (800) 964-4295 (24/7) or register online at

Tags: asset protection, Estate Planning, probate, Elder Law, revocable living trust, Wills, Beneficiary, Massachusetts

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