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Is an Inheritance a Gift or an Entitlement?

26 Sep

MetroBoston publication date September 25, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw

The answer depends not only on your personal philosophy but whether you are the one inheriting or giving.

More people these days are considering whether it is better to leave all or a sizeable portion of one’s money and property to a charity rather than one’s children.

A frequently asked question is whether an inheritance will help one’s children in some important way or provide an incentive to do little or nothing with their lives, personal growth, or career development.

Frankly, too many children of wealthy or financially well-off families seem to do far less with their lives while waiting for an inheritance and become hostile later on when they don’t believe they received enough.

In my view, the number one purpose of earning money and acquiring assets over a lifetime is to take care of oneself first and foremost. What you leave to your children afterwards is something you earned. That point should be emphasized to one’s children.

Many believe today that the best estate plans remove the cost burden of education and medical expenses for one’s children or grandchildren, provide support where needed and incentives to do more with their lives.

More next week.

© 2013 George Warshaw.  George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, litigates real estate matters, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions.


Thoughts on Charitable Giving

20 Mar

MetroBoston Publication Date March 20, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw

I was speaking with Mark at the U.C. about this column. He asked me to write about how charitable giving may be used with an estate plan.

Interesting question.

Money you leave by will, trust or otherwise to an IRS tax qualified charity is not included in your estate at death. If your estate is worth $1,250,000 and you leave $250,000 to a qualified charity, your estate is then valued at $1,000,000.

More interesting is what you can do with your charitable estate.

If you want to leave all or a chunk to charity, and possibly avoid even the Massachusetts estate tax problem, you could establish a private tax qualified foundation in which your friends and family participate in making donations to causes that are important to you.

Once or twice a year friends and family get together, remember you in their thoughts and hearts, and do something good with your money and memory. They could use it where it’s needed most – and certainly more efficiently than our spendthrift government.

It’s also a good way of keeping your family together and doing something positive “as a family” with a great result.

There are also Charitable Funds, like Fidelity runs, where they decide how your money is used, or you can direct it yourself in your will or trust.

Say you want to help children or pets. I’ll use the MSPCA and Tenacity, my personal favorites, as examples.

MSPCA, You can leave a specific amount of money in your will or trust (a “bequest” in legal talk) or you can target a specific program.

For example, “I give and devise to MSPCA $________ [or _____% of my net estate] for its “Pet Care Assistance Program for the medical care of sick or injured animals.”

Tenacity, Tenacity changes the lives of inner Boston city kids. They learn to play tennis but only after the student and family make a multi-year learning commitment. The kids receive structure, discipline and educational assistance from elementary school through high school. Tennis is the motivator to enroll.

Aside from a bequest, you can give all or a portion of the residue of your estate (i.e. after payment of all debts and bequests.)

For example, “I leave the rest and residue of my estate (or a percentage) to Tenacity to sponsor as many children as possible in its “Middle School Academy.”

Plan it in advance with the charity or just surprise them in your will!

And don’t forget Tenacity and the MSPCA in your planning – helping children and pets is a good thing to do. © 2013 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions. Contact him at

Is it Better to Give than Receive?

17 Jan

MetroBoston Publication Date January 17, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw

When families get together over the holidays talk often turns to inheriting mom or dad’s house or estate.

Is it better to receive a gift of real estate today or inherit it later? Tax wise, a gift isn’t always the best choice.

When a person dies one’s real estate has to be valued. Let’s say the present market value of the house is $500,000, but mom or dad only paid $100,000 for it.

Give it to your children while you are alive and they are considered to have acquired it at the same price you (mom and dad) paid plus any improvements.

A person who receives a gift steps into the shoes of the giver. If your children acquire the property by gift at the same price or tax basis as mom and dad paid ($100,000) and sell it later for $500,000, they’ve made a profit of $400,000.

If your children inherit it later, on the other hand, the tax law treats it as if your children bought it at its fair market value. Inherit it at $500,000, sell it at $500,000 and they technically made no profit.

Always consult your tax advisor or attorney before gifting real estate. It’s a complicated subject. The above information may not apply you. © 2013 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions. Contact him at



Is Your Pet Getting Older?

6 Dec

MetroBoston Publication Date December 6, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

With the holiday season upon us let us not forget our best friends, the furry four-legged creatures that make our lives so much better.

As happens to us all, our pets are aging. Some are getting senior in life but unlike us, they can’t tell us what’s hurting or what’s going on. I want to tell you about something I learned that I think you might like to know.

I attended a discussion recently at the MSPCA/Angell Memorial Hospital on Aging Pets. I didn’t really want to go because I thought it would bring me to tears, which it did, but I have no regrets.

The discussion was led by noted Veterinarians Joseph Kaye, who spoke about Canine Cognitive Dysfunction – senility, Alzheimer’s and loss of awareness and recognition that also occurs in pets, and Lisa Moses who spoke on Pain Management.

Our pets suffer from the same maladies as we do, but at Angell there are people who can help determine if something is wrong and do something about it. Perhaps most critical is pain management. Angell is one of the few institutions in the world that has a clinic and practice devoted to managing your pet’s pain, whether it be from aging or surgery. They use different approaches and often innovative approaches that are not used or known by many veterinarians.

So this holiday season, if your older pet has been acting discernibly differently than when it was younger, consider getting an evaluation – and don’t forget the best gift you can make this season is a donation to the MSPCA,, or a rescue organization. ©George Warshaw 2012

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at


1 Nov

MetroBoston Publication Date October 31, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

Other than your spouse and your lawyer, should you tell anyone else?

Think thrice before you do. It may go against your compelling desire to let others know about their inheritances, but I say this from experience: people often change their minds when it comes to money and property, especially later in life, and more especially if they remarry.

Create an expectation that doesn’t come true, and you may leave someone with badly injured feelings or ill thoughts of you.

The purpose of a will may be to leave money and property to someone, but there is another purpose, rarely considered, but as important in my view – avoiding family strife and discord that often follows a surprising inheritance or disinheritance after one’s death.

Take your children for example. Once you’re dead you won’t be able to fix hurt feelings if an inheritance doesn’t match your promise or their expectations.

And we’ve all heard the stories of families torn apart after an older parent remarries and promised inheritances go to someone else’s children. Use your will to promote family harmony and a positive memory of you.

So be careful what you disclose if you decide to tell all.  Contact me if you need help with your planning. ©2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and legal author . He practices real estate and estate planning, assisting buyers and sellers of homes and condos and preparing wills and trusts. Send him your thoughts and comments at


Providing for Children and Pets in a Will

31 Jan

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: February 1, 2012
By: George Warshaw

Last week I wrote about the basics in preparing a Will.

Now, what about providing for your children and pets?

Pets are simpler to plan. Most people, however, in preparing a Will overlook them completely. That’s not the way to reward your devoted companion!

At a minimum, it’s important to list several choices as your pet’s future caretaker, since your first choice may not be available then or in the future. And don’t forget to provide some money for your pet’s future care.

Children are more complicated. There are three issues: guardianship, funding and planning their future.

Who will raise your children – and who are your first and second choices as substitute parents (i.e. guardians)?

Secondly, where will the money come from to help raise them, and do you want to provide economic incentives to encourage their personal growth and development?

This is part of your core planning.

I’m a believer in creating separate trusts for children and pets that provide for their future needs. A stand-alone children’s trust is a great planning opportunity that can better assure their education and future.

Next week, more on trusts for children and how you can accomplish specific goals. © 2012 George Warshaw.


George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.