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Your Probate Vocabulary Cheat Sheet

After a person dies, someone has to do things with that dead person’s remaining assets.  And to do those things, that someone has to go to the Probate Court and be appointed the legal representative for the dead person.  If you are that “someone,” when you start looking into what has to be done, you’ll see that Probate has a language of its own – which can be overwhelming.  So while lots of Probate work can be done without a lawyer, it is much more difficult if you don’t know what the terms mean.

This “Probate Vocabulary Cheat Sheet” spells out some frequently used terms that come up during Probate and what they mean: [Read more…]

After Death, Don’t Rush The Net

Memo to someone who has just lost a loved one: don’t rush the net.

You’re kidding, right? Not at all. There is no legal reason to do anything quickly. And there are lots of legal reasons not to. Go be with family. Talk to clergy and friends. And do as little as possible with tax-significant assets.   [Read more…]

It’s Critical to Discuss Your Will with Your Children – Even if it’s Uncomfortable

Certain superstitions are silly: “Handling a toad gives you warts.” “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” “It’s good luck to find a horseshoe.” (Unless, of course, it’s still attached to the horse).

Other superstitions have intellectual issues: When Punxsutawney Pete looks for his shadow on Groundhog Day, how does he know what he’s looking for? Or does the shadow know?

Other superstitions come with directions: “Pull off the petals of a daisy one by one, naming a boy (or a girl as the case may be) at each one, thus: Jenny, Fanny, Jenny, Fanny, etc. The one named with the last petal is your sweetheart.”

Life and death have their superstitions. If you’re having thirteen for dinner in Brookline, MA, “the last one who sits down will not die.” In nearby Somerville, “the one who rises first from a table of thirteen will not live through the year.” So if you’re invited to dinner in New England, take your time showing up and chew your food really, really well.

Here’s a superstition which is both worthless and dangerous: “If you discuss your Will with your children, you die really soon.”

[Read more…]

Who Gets the Assets if Your Spouse Dies Without a Will? You Might be Surprised.

The financial planner thought he knew everything.  And with that confidence, he downloaded a form will. It wasn’t a bad will, actually. But he made one enormous mistake: he didn’t sign it right.

So when he died, his wife went to an attorney to find out how she would collect everything. She got a shock: she wasn’t going to. The will was useless. Void. Non-existent. Consequently, the law says that she and the child had to split the assets. The scorecard: Child: 50%. Mother 50%. Game, set, match.

Would it matter if it was his child, and not their child? Not a whit. Could they fudge the distribution? Nope.

What if parent and child didn’t get along? Doesn’t matter. They were chained legally to 50% each. They may not have spoken in years . . . but now they sure were going to.

The key: if the once-good will is not good now, or if there’s no will, then the spouse and the children divide the estate assets equally.  [Read more…]

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