With the beginning of a new year, most of us choose one or more New Year’s resolutions. Losing some weight, exercising more, perhaps – starting a new hobby or learning a new skill are common resolutions most of us have, from time to time, adopted at the beginning a new year.
This year I thought about what New Year’s resolutions I would, as a trust and estate attorney, want Massachusetts government to make in 2022.
I have two:
Resolution #1: Overhaul of the Massachusetts Estate TaxOnly 12 states (plus the District of Columbia) have an estate tax. Massachusetts and Oregon have the most aggressive estate tax in the USA. Essentially, an estate of an unmarried person of over $1,000,000 is subject to the Massachusetts estate tax. With the proper use of a credit shelter trust plan, a married couple can pass up to $2,000,000 free of an estate tax. Without proper credit shelter planning, an estate tax of approximately $100,000 would be due upon the death of the second spouse with a $2,000,000 taxable estate. And, of course, the higher the value of the estate, the higher the tax. Here’s how the Massachusetts estate tax exemption amount of $1,000,000 compares to our border states:
Rhode Island: $1,648,611
New York: $6,020,000
New Hampshire: NONE
Overhaul of the Massachusetts estate tax is long overdue. The Massachusetts estate tax statute should become more aligned with our neighboring states.
Resolution #2: Make Virtual Notarization Permanent
Prior to COVID, the notarization of a document required the person signing a document to be personally present with the notary public. However, by virtue of an emergency law enacted in April 2020 and extended until December 15, 2021, remote, on-line virtual notarization of documents was permitted. The emergency law required that certain protocols be followed for the notarization to be valid. The overwhelming response from clients to a lawyer’s ability to conduct on-line notarization of documents was very positive. Remote notarization of documents proved to be a convenient, efficient, and safe way for clients to develop their estate plans during the pandemic. 34 states have enacted some form of permanent on-line, virtual notarizations. Massachusetts should apply the lessons learned during the COVID pandemic and make on-line, virtual notarization permanent.
As Chair of the Trust and Estate Department, I work closely with the lawyers, paralegals, managers, and administrative support staff with the department. Throughout the pandemic, our work intensified in volume, challenged old ways of doing things, and taught us new ways of doing our work in a virtual environment. For many us, prior to COVID, Zoom was a PBS children’s program, not a familiar, virtual platform for conducting meetings and webinars. In this edition of Legacy, we salute and recognize the staff within the Trust and Estate Department. Their dedication and diligence to their work is a tremendous example of professionalism and service. They are truly the best.
Fred Misilo, Esq.
Chair, Trust and Estate Department