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Probate and Estate Planning


One of the more complicated areas of legal practice today is the area of estate planning.  Attorney Sandra Meneses has experience in estate administration and planning.

Estate Planning covers everything from the drafting of simple wills to planning for disabled family members to the complicated estate plan which may dispose of millions of dollars.  Whether or not you own real estate, whether your assets are joint with your spouse or others or held individually, you should have some method for ensuring that your assets are disposed of in the manner in which you desire at your death. If you do not decide for yourself, the Commonwealth or other jurisdiction in which you are domiciled will decide for you.  Other issues dealt with in the estate planning area are those of Medicaid Planning, Health Care Proxies, (commonly known as "Living Wills") and Powers of Attorney.

Medicaid Planning is the area in which wills, trusts, transfers of property both real and personal can be used to avoid assessment of Medicaid liens. Unfortunately, in December 1996, the federal laws were amended, making transfers with the specific intent to avoid Medicaid assessments illegal.

Health Care Proxies - "Living Wills" allow an individual to nominate a person to make medical decisions when the principal is incapacitated to the point where he or she cannot make informed medical decisions on his or her own. The Living Will can be drafted broadly to allow termination of any and all extraordinary means, or more narrowly so that the Proxy can assent to only certain procedures.

Powers of Attorney allow the principal to nominate another to conduct the everyday business of the principal as to negotiating checks, maintaining lawsuits, collecting debts, paying bills, depositing and withdrawing from accounts. Be aware that the Power of Attorney is not an infallible document. Some banks and other institutions will desire their own form, and if the Power is too old it may not be accepted. Conveyancers are particularly skeptical of the use of Powers of Attorney in order to transfer real property. Generally a conveyancer will require a deed or mortgage to be signed by the principal and will allow all other closing documents to be signed by the Attorney -in- Fact.

Wills are the documents used to transfer property after death. They can be as complex or simple as needed. They can be amended or changed until the individual loses testamentary capacity or dies.

Trusts are documents which will hold property to be used by the Trustee for specific purposes, such as support, maintenance and education of children, maintenance of an incapacitated spouse, child, or other relative. Complex trusts provide a vehicle to shift assets for estate tax purposes.

Both Wills and Trusts as well as the other documents described above should be reviewed on a regular basis, and should there be a death of a spouse or child, birth of a new child, marriage, divorce or remarriage, your will and other estate planning documents should be reviewed.

Estate Administration is the process by which the Will is offered for probate and the assets of the estate are distributed. Estate Administration also encompasses preparation and filing of the Estate Tax Return and obtaining a Release of Estate Tax Lien for any real estate in which the decedent had an interest at death.