Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Little Promotion

I received a wonderful and completely unsolicited email today from a client offering a testimonial that he invited me to share publicly on my websites. It may be bad form to be so self-promoting, but since he offered, I'll re-print it here, with many thanks to Steve Kelley (who was himself a fantastic client to work with):

2010: Judy Pike has provided exceptional legal services for our family real estate management company. In a recent transaction involving a complicated refinance of a commercial note, she did a great job balancing our own interests with the interests of our bank, making sure the deal got done. She is a hard-working attorney, timely, an most importantly, she and her staff kept their word in every step of the transaction. We also engaged her to rewrite our lease templates for commercial and residential accounts: Results - another terrific job and money well spent. Feel free to call me with questions about her company.


Steve Kelley, President
KC Real Estate, LLC

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Massachusetts Homestead Law

Governor Patrick has just signed into law a new bill which clarifies and improves the Homestead protections afforded to Massachusetts homeowners. The new bill provides an automatic protection of up to $125,000.00 of equity in a primary residence against claims of most creditors. Formerly, Homestead protection was available only to those homeowners who filed a Declaration of Homestead at the Registry of Deeds. Under the old law, the filing of a Declaration of Homestead protected up to $500,000.00 of equity against claims of creditors. This $500,000.00 protection is still available by filing a Declaration of Homestead, but even without a filing, you are now automatically protected up to $125,000.00. In addition, the new law clarifies that the Homestead protection remains intact if the property is conveyed to another family member, or to a trust for estate planning purposes, or if you refinance your home mortgage. This long-overdue and highly welcomed law goes into effect in mid-March. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

New Estate Tax Laws Enacted

Just under the wire, Congress has enacted new tax laws with respect to federal estate, gift and generation skipping taxes.  Under this law, beginning in 2011 the estate and gift taxes are reunified and the exclusion/exemption amount is set at $5 million per person.  The maximum rate is reduced to 35 percent.  The generation-skipping transfer tax exemption is also raised to $5 million, with a maximum tax rate of 35 percent.  The act includes a "repeal of the repeal" of the prior estate tax laws, so for decedents dying in 2010, rather than there being no Federal estate tax, the fiduciaries may elect whether to subject the the estate to the previously existing laws or the new ones about to take effect.  These provisions sunset at the end of 2012.

For an interesting analysis of the new estate tax provisions, see this article in today's New York Times:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Duties Of An Executor

When a loved one dies, often a family member will have been named in the Last Will and Testament as the Executor of the deceased’s estate. What are the responsibilities of the Executor?

The Executor will have three main responsibilities. The first is to collect and manage all probate assets of the decedent. The second is to pay all liabilities of the decedent. The third is to distribute all probate estate assets to the named beneficiaries.

As soon as practical following the death of the principal, the Executor should contact the attorney who assisted the decedent with preparation of the estate plan to obtain the original Will and begin the probate process. In order for an Executor to have the power to undertake the various duties, he or she must first be appointed by the Probate Court. A Petition for Allowance of Will, together will accompanying documents, must be filed with Probate Court in the county where the decedent resided. Notice to heirs must be given and a copy of the Petition must be published in a local newspaper. Following satisfaction of procedural requirements, the Court will issue a Citation allowing the Will and appointing the petitioner as Executor.

Once appointed, the duties of the Executor will include:

• Locating the decedent’s important papers and gathering information about all assets owned by the decedent.
• Contacting each institution holding such assets and effectuating the transfer out of the decedent’s name and into an estate account or accounts.
• Filing claims to obtain certain payments to which the estate may be entitled, such as life insurance proceeds, Social Security benefits, Veteran’s benefits or employer pension and insurance benefits.
• Gathering paperwork regarding all liabilities and claims by creditors of the decedent, and arranging for payment of those liabilities.
• Selling assets of the estate as directed in the Will, or for cash requirements.
• Investing estate assets to generate income during the period of administration.
• Filing estate tax returns, if necessary, within nine months of death, and income tax returns.
• Dividing and distributing the net estate assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the Will.
• Filing an Inventory, and ultimately a Final Accounting, with Probate Court.

If a decedent owned assets in trust, or jointly with another person, or in a form that allowed the decedent to designate a death beneficiary, those assets will pass outside of the probate process in accordance with the procedure applicable to such assets. While not strictly within the probate estate, oversight of those assets by the Executor may be necessary in order ensure the orderly administration of the decedent’s overall estate.

Of course, an article such as this cannot cover all of the possible scenarios in attending to the estate of a decedent. Consultation with a qualified probate attorney (such as myself!) will be important to proper administration.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Avoid Contractor Rip-offs"

This a terrific piece in today's Boston Globe Magazine on how to protect yourself when hiring a contractor.  A good follow up to my blog post from this past September and worth reading!

My Facebook Page

Just want to remind everyone that I also have a Facebook page for "Law Offices of Judith R. Pike", where I post links to news stories of interest to my readers.  Here's the link:!/pages/Wellesley-MA/Law-Offices-of-Judith-R-Pike/118159531528358Please click "like" to become a follower of this page and receive regular updates of new postings.