Tag: Trust law

Wills & Trusts - the Basics , , , , ,

The Importance of the “Story” Behind Life’s “Little Treasures”

Remove the story and it's just a toolbox.

One of the purposes of writing your will or a living trust is to direct how your property is passed on and to whom. What I’ve found over the years, though, is that when people work with lawyers or even with online will writing services, there is a tendency to just focus on how their “big ticket” items of property will be passed on. For example, they’ll decide how their house, their life insurance policies or their financial investments will be divided amongst their surviving spouse and children.

While this is absolutely important and a major part of any estate plan, what it tends to “gloss over” are the smaller personal pieces of property in our lives that have become treasured and which have deep meaning to us.   Making a “specific gift” or legacy in an estate plan allows you to give a piece of personal property to someone in your will or in your trust. For example, you may wish to leave your stamp collection to a nephew or your gold wedding ring to your goddaughter.

By making these types of gifts as part of your estate plan, you get a chance to pass on your memories of your life’s treasures. But, when doing so, don’t forget to tell the story behind the item so that your loved ones will always know why it’s such a treasure to you.

Let me give you an example. Most people who know me well, know that one of my hobbies (well a passion really) is building hardwood furniture in my workshop.  I’ve probably spent countless hours over the years in my shop surrounded by my tools and my hardwoods, in front of my workbench, hand finishing an end table or “squaring up” a cabinet door.

What many people may not know is that it was my father who started me down this road. He’s an avid “do it yourselfer” and was always building things around the house when I was growing up.

Well, probably some six years back, he gave me a toolbox that he had handcrafted himself from one of my favorite types of hardwood – American black cherry. The box was fashioned with hand cut dovetails and was hand finished by him with his own recipe of linseed oil.

This toolbox means the world to me. I carry all of my favorite hand tools in it.

The box is a treasure to me because it was made by my father for me to use in a passion that I had learned from him. It is a gift to me that is priceless.  It’s an heirloom because of the story behind it.

Now here’s the rub: if you take away the story behind this gift then it’s just a toolbox. Granted it’s a nice toolbox, but if you were to put that box in a yard sale you might fetch ten or twenty bucks.

And isn’t that the way with most of the personal items that are “treasures” in our life? Look around you? Think about what you treasure? What has meaning to you?

When I counsel clients these days about their estate plans and we talk about personal items that they’d like to pass on, I try to get them thinking about what the true “treasures” in their life really are and why they’ve become such treasures. And, I urge them to tell the story behind the item in writing so that their loved ones always remember why it meant so much to them. In that way, the gift will most likely become a treasure to them.

Remember – it’s the story behind life’s little treasures that make them priceless.

Second Marriages and Relationships , , , , , , , , ,

I’m in a Second Marriage. Is Estate Planning Really All That Important?

Simple answer: it’s probably MORE important now in your second marriage than it was in your first.

In most second marriages, each spouse comes into the new relationship with “baggage” from the first marriage (and I don’t mean “baggage” in the negative sense). They have kids from the first marriage. They have a house from the first marriage. They have a 401k from the first marriage. Maybe they have a business that survived the first marriage.

Other than the “kids,” these pieces of “baggage” are all “assets” in the eyes of the law from the first marriage.

Now, usually there’s a pretty interesting dynamic that I see surrounding how each spouse feels about these different pieces of “baggage” from the first marriage. Generally, they tend to think of the property, or “baggage,” from the first marriage as their own individual property.

It’s not necessarily a negative or selfish feeling that they have about these assets – it is understandable – but they tend to have the view that they worked hard for them, they survived the break up of a first marriage and came out with them in tact, so they view them as “mine.”

Added to this dynamic each spouse then usually has very strong feelings about how these pieces of “baggage” should be handled when they pass away.

Here’s a great “real life” example that many second-marriage couples face. This couple’s been married for over 10 years. They both have adult kids from a first marriage. The couple is living together in the home that the wife brought from the first marriage.

Now, they live in this house, which has no mortgage, as if it is “their” home. They act as if it is “their” home. They both contribute to its upkeep. They pay taxes on it. But, if something happens to her, then the wife wants her husband to live in the house for as long as he wants (and for as long as he remains single after she’s gone), and then the house should go to her kids from the first marriage only. She doesn’t want the house to go to her stepchildren.

So here’s the rub: if that wife dies without some sort of estate plan in place, then state laws will determine how that house is passed on. So, the surviving husband will now have part ownership in that house with her kids from the first marriage. If that surviving husband then dies without a will, his kids will inherit his share of the property – a result that the wife didn’t want.

For this couple, like most couples in a second marriage, a living trust combined with wills could solve their dilemma and help get them the result that they want.

So as you can see, if you’re in a second marriage (or a third or even a fourth), it’s imperative that you do some estate planning. If you have questions, contact an estate planning attorney to talk about your second marriage questions.

Andrew J. Garcia - "Don't leave a financial mess for your loved ones. Get some Family Legal Planning done before it's too late."

The Family Legal Planning system at Phillips & Garcia has been designed to help busy families get their Massachusetts estate planning done in a convenient and affordable way. To learn more about trusts and how they can be used in your estate plan, schedule your complimentary Family Legal Planning session with Attorney Andrew Garcia. To speak with Attorney Garcia call him at (508) 998-0800 or email him at [email protected]

Pet Law, Uncategorized , , , , , , , , , ,

New Pet Trust Law: Dartmouth Attorneys Explain the New Pet Trust Law

Americans spent an estimated 47.7 billion dollars on their pets in 2010. This is a clear example of how much we value our pets, similar to the way we value our own children. Like our children, we want to leave behind arrangements and finances to ensure that our pets can maintain a happy, healthy life, even if they outlive us.

Luckily, Massachusetts has adopted the new pet trust law.

This allows owners to write a trust agreement under which their pet is the beneficiary of trust funds. Starting April 7, 2011, your pets can finally feel safe knowing that when mom and dad are gone they will be able to maintain their happy loving lives. MSPCA Website

For more information, visit our website here.