As a pet lover, I’m thrilled to let you know that Massachusetts has joined a majority of other states in allowing people to set up a trust for the care of animal companions. Like many people, I think of pets as family members. You want your family and assets protected, so why wouldn’t you protect your pet with a pet trust?
What is a pet trust? Basically, a pet trust allows you to create a legally binding agreement that provides for the care of your pet if you become incapacitated or pass away. You can designate the person you want to care for your pet, leave money for the benefit of your pet, and set forth specific instructions. If Fluffy has a favorite brand of food, or needs her medicine given a particular way, and if Max will only visit a certain vet or has a favorite route for his walk, then you can spell this out in the trust. The pet trust will ensure that your pet’s daily routine isn’t interrupted.
If you’ve already set up an estate plan with us, contact us to discuss how you can add a pet trust to your current documents. Our office has already drafted several pet trusts for our clients so that their pets will maintain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed! If you would like to learn more about pet trusts, we’re co-sponsoring an informational event with our neighborhood pet store, Polka Dog Bakery.
Join us on Wednesday, April 13 at 6:30pm for food, fun and gifts for your pet in an informational discussion on how you can take care of your pet with a Pet Trust. This event will be at our office at 530 Tremont St. in Boston. Please RSVP to Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 617.357.9333, or simply use the contact form on our website.
The spring market is right just about here and if you’re planning to buy or sell your home, you need to have the right people on your team. A key team player will be your real estate agent.
Of course it is the duty of the agent to get the best buyer or seller at the most appropriate price. But, what makes a good agent? What are the characteristics a buyer or seller should look for when choosing an agent to represent them?
Well, after careful consideration and some research, they can be narrowed down into 5 general characteristics:
- Good Character. First and foremost, you want someone who’s honest, patient, professional, straightforward and has integrity. You want someone who’s fair to all parties. If your agent isn’t fair to the party on the other side, chances are he/she won’t be fair with you if given the opportunity.
- Good Communication skills. You also want someone who communicates well and often. Better to have too much information, then not enough. And, you agent also needs to be accessible and responsive. Sure, everyone needs to have a life, but during crucial moments when offers are on the table, you want to make sure you can get in touch with your agent.You also want your agent to listen to what you say and understand your needs. No one wants to take time to go see a property with one bedroom when you’re looking for a place with three!You’re also looking for accuracy and attention to detail. No one wants to get important documents with errors. This just wastes everyone’s time.
- Passionate. You want your agent to be passionate about what he or she is doing. An agent who really has a passion for real estate will seek to know as much about it as he can and be on top of his game. He will know the market inside and out with information such as inventory, pricing, absorption rate, market cycle and buyer demand.
- Well connected and resourceful. You want an agent who knows how to get things done. She should have good list of people in her back pocket that she can call in a pinch when something needs to get done.
- An excellent negotiator. At the end of the day, you need someone who’s going to utilize all the characteristics above to close the deal.
That sums it up. Now, you may not be able to know for sure if the agent you’re about to meet or hire will satisfy all the characteristics above, but do your research, ask around and, above all, trust your instincts!
Most people agree that having an estate plan is something they should do, but never get around to actually doing. As we begin a new year filled with hope for the future, what better time to think about setting up your estate plan? Along with the promise of all that a new year brings, the new legislation enacted by Congress effective January 1, 2011 increases the threshold amount for the Federal estate tax to $5,000,000 and decreases the Federal estate tax to 35%. This is terrific news and should give people an incentive to implement an estate plan.
In order to help you get started, here are three tips to get you from thinking about an estate plan to having an estate plan.
- Make a list of all your assets and debts. This includes items such as your home, car, jewelry and artwork, as well as your financial assets such as investment accounts, IRA assets, bank accounts and life insurance policies. You should list whether you own the asset individually or with another person. On a separate piece of paper, list all your obligations, such as mortgages and auto loans.
- Review the beneficiary designations on all accounts and life insurance policies. Any asset that allows you to designate beneficiaries will pass automatically upon your death. It is imperative that those individuals listed are current and reflect your wishes. Many people forget to update these. If you are unsure who you have listed as a beneficiary, contact the customer service department of the company holding the account or life insurance policy. You can also contact your bank to change your savings and checking accounts to a “payable on death” account.
- Meet with your advisors. If you have a financial advisor, schedule an appointment with him/her to map out a plan for your financial future. Contact an Estate Planning attorney to discuss what documents are appropriate for your unique situation. In order to maximize protection of your assets and to ensure that your wishes are carried out, you’ll want to have a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will, HIPAA Authorization, Will and possibly a Revocable Living Trust. An Estate Planning attorney will also be able to help you with items 1 and 2 in this list so you don’t have to do everything on your own.
Once you’ve taken care of these items, you’ll feel much better knowing that your assets are protected and will be distributed according to your specific wishes.
If you have any questions about Estate Planning, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Posted by Robert L. Vitale, Esq.