Tag Archives: Estate Planning Lawyer

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, www.mspca.org. 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, www.tenacity.org. 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 metro@warshawlaw.com.

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Important Changes to Probate Law May Affect Your Will

20 Jan

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: January 18, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

Charles Dickens is now safely buried.

Remnants of ancient England that ruled our probate procedures in Massachusetts will be gone in a few months. Beginning this April, the Massachusetts version of the Uniform Probate Code will become the law.

And with it, a new informal procedure will allow one’s heirs to probate a simple estate in a speedy process.

Under the new law, a person filing a will now has a choice: utilize a formal process in which a judge oversees the probate or elect an informal process that lets court clerks, designated as Magistrates, approve the will or a petition where there is no will.

While certain types of estates must go before a judge, most are straight-forward, uncontested and are perfect for the new informal process.

The new law also changed many of the rules regarding wills and inheritance.

For example, the rule in Massachusetts that marriage revoked a will made prior to the ceremony unless the will directed otherwise has been changed, among other important revisions.

So don’t take chances. It makes good sense to review and update your will before the new law goes into effect.

And if you don’t have a will, well you can guess my advice!

© 2012 George Warshaw
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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 metro@warshawlaw.com.

Real Estate for Christmas

30 Nov

By Attorney George Warshaw

It’s Christmas and Hanukkah time. Naturally one’s thoughts turn to gifts.

As families get together, oftentimes the discussion shifts to a parent’s home. Is it better to gift it now or inherit it later?

While the answer requires a careful discussion with a tax advisor, it’s helpful to review a key gifting rule.

When a person receives a gift of real estate, the gift is valued for tax purposes at the same cost+ value (or “tax basis” in accountant-speak) as the giver has in it.

Bought a home years ago for $200,000, put $50,000 in improvements into it, and your tax basis is likely $250,000.

Give it to your kids today and the IRS will likely value the gift as worth $250,000. It doesn’t matter if the house is worth $1,000,000, the gifting value is still $250,000.

If your kids later sell it for a million, the IRS deems they made a profit of $750,000 (sale price minus tax basis) – and they may have to pay a tax on the $750,000 gain at the time of sale. That’s painful!

Next week: Is it better to Inherit Real Estate?

Always consult your tax advisor or attorney before gifting real estate. The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Only an in person consultation with an attorney can establish an attorney-client relationship. © 2011 George Warshaw.

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 george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Pre-nups, Co-ownership and Real Estate

24 Aug

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: August 24, 2011
Expanded content

By Attorney George Warshaw

“Honey, I love you, but would you mind signing this little piece of paper for me?”

Relationship don’t always last forever, despite the best of intentions.

If you’ve been married before, broaching the subject of a pre-nuptial or a co-ownership agreement with a partner or future spouse is more the norm than the exception. It should not be overlooked in any relationship when planning for the future, especially if one person has real estate, substantial assets, or a prospective significant inheritance.

In the pre-nup or co-ownership agreements that I do for clients, I suggest simple methods of handling real estate. One way is this (and there are several other ways):

In the event of a divorce or separation, you get back what you put in to buy the property – or your present equity if you are contributing a property that you already own. Anything beyond that (i.e. the increase in value), is split evenly or according to a fair formula that considers everyone’s contributions, past and future.

Here’s an example (it may not be right for you). If you came into a relationship owning a condo consider the equity as yours. If, going forward, both of you make equal contributions towards the mortgage, taxes, insurance and condo fees, then, in the event of a divorce, any increase in the equity over time could be recovered 50-50.

 A variation on this approach is that each person gets back what each paid in to buy the house, pay for improvements and cover core expenses like taxes, insurance and mortgage. Each person’s contributions easily translate into a percentage of investment that can be applied to any profit or loss. While this approach sounds good on paper, this requires a bit of record keeping.

 While there are many ways of dealing with real estate in a pre-nup or co-ownership agreement, what’s often most important is the relationship, and that one person doesn’t feel like they are living in the other’s house. With good planning, that can be easily addressed.

It’s important in any relationship to discuss future finances. A pre-nuptial or co-ownership agreement should just be one of the discussion points. Since “no one suit fits all,” it’s critical to see a lawyer for advice and planning. One simple detail or concern can change the advice you may get.

© 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney, estate planner and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, prenuptial agreements and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

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 or if the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

Should You Gift Real Estate?

30 Apr

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: January 12, 2011 

 By Attorney George Warshaw 

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

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 you, the homeowner, only paid $100,000.

Give it to your children while you are alive and they later sell it for $500,000: they may have to pay a capital gains tax on $400,000 of profit. But if they inherit and sell it for $500,000, no tax or a lesser tax may be due.

 Here’s why:

 A person who receives a gift steps into the shoes of the giver. The recipient acquires the property at the same cost or tax basis as the person who gave it, i.e. $100,000. Sell it for $500,000 and you’ve made a profit. If you inherit property, you instead acquire it at its fair market value, i.e., the same as if you paid $500,000 for it. Sell it for $500,000 and you’ve sold it for the same amount that you acquired it.

 The above information may not apply you. Always consult your tax advisor or attorney before gifting real estate. There are numerous opportunities available to owners of real estate. © 2011 George Warshaw.

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Caution. The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently. This post is not updated. If you have a legal question, only an actual consultation with an attorney who has an opportunity to review all the facts can provide an answer that applies to your situation.

Attorney George Warshaw represents buyers and sellers of homes, condos and investment properties and prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate. George welcomes new clients and questions at  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Gifting Your Home to Your Children

30 Apr

 Metro® Boston, Publication Date: January 5, 2011

 By Attorney George Warshaw

 It’s not unusual for parents to gift their home to their children and expect to live in it afterwards; but we’ve all heard stories – all too real – about how someone’s parents were later forced to move.

How can something so simple go so badly?

Suppose you (the parent) deed your home to your son as a gift. He gets a mortgage but can’t pay it; or, your son’s creditors place a lien against all real estate standing in his name; or, your son gets divorced and now your home is one of his assets before a probate judge.

How can you protect your home? A trust is perhaps the best method, but a life estate may work almost as well.

It works like this: In the deed to your son or daughter you, the parent, simply reserve the right to live in the house the rest of your life (i.e. called a “life estate”). While your son’s creditors may still acquire a lien, the lien is subject to your right to live in the house forever. If your son wants a mortgage, your permission is needed – and, if you take my advice – be smart, don’t give it! If you do give it, you will likely be evicted in the event of a foreclosure. © 2011 George Warshaw.

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Caution. The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently. This post is not updated. If you have a legal question, only an actual consultation with an attorney who has an opportunity to review all the facts can provide an answer that applies to your situation.

Attorney George Warshaw represents buyers and sellers of homes, condos and investment properties and prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate. George welcomes new clients and questions at  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.