Planning for Life

Apple Forces Our Client to Court: How to Avoid this Happening to Your Heirs

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 8, 2021

By Harry S. Margolis


We have a client who is trying to access his deceased wife's account Apple iCloud account and has run up against Apple's requirement that he obtain a specific court order giving him access. To obtain such an order, our client must first probate his wife's estate, which otherwise would not be necessary.

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Topics: probate, personal representative, on-line accounts

Court Allows Claim Against Goulston & Storrs to Proceed to Trial

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 22, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


The Suffolk Superior Court in Ginsberg v. Casey, et al. (C.A. No. 1984CV01670-BLS1, November 10, 2020) dismisses some claims and refuses to dismiss others brought by Faye Ginsburg against Goulston & Storrs, P.C., and Attorneys J. Robert Casey and Andrew D. Rothstein for assisting her brother, Bruce Ginsberg, in raiding family trusts for his benefit and convincing their mother to change her estate plan to Faye's detriment.

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Topics: probate, will, undue influence, malpractice

Who Gets Cash Found in House?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 7, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


We recently had an inquiry about the following situation. The decedent's will said:

"Herman shall receive all contents of the house."

It also said the rest of the property would go to beneficiaries other than Herman. The house contained $4,700 in cash, a bank check of $3,000, and an uncashed personal check made out to the decedent.

So, who gets these items, Herman or the people who are entitled to the rest of the estate?

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Topics: probate, Probate Estate Administration, tangible personal property

Beware the Use of Preprinted Probate Forms

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 27, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis


The Massachusetts Probate Courts have created useful forms for use in its proceedings, but sometimes the forms don't fit exactly the facts or situation petitioners want to present to the court. In the case of Leighton v. Hallstrom (Mass. App. Ct. No. 17-P-1335, Nov. 7, 2018), Robert H. Olson of Bridgewater died in 2015 without a will. His first cousin, Dorothy A. Leighton, filed a petition for probate listing herself and two other cousins as next of kin.

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Topics: probate, Probate Estate Administration

How to Fleece an Estate . . . or Giving Lawyers a Bad Name

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 6, 2015

By Harry S. Margolis

In 2015, Boston estate planning attorney received a public reprimand from the Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) for overcharging an estate and stretching out its administration for more than seven years. In 2003, Kenneth L. Harvey, an attorney with Holland & Knight in Boston, met with an elderly client and two of her sons. The client executed a will and a trust naming Attorney Harvey as trustee and executor. She passed away later that year.

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Topics: Legal profession, Estate Planning, probate

Is a Probate Proceeding Always Required After Someone Dies?

Posted by Jeffrey A. Bloom on February 18, 2015

By Jeffrey A. Bloom


Probate is a legal process by which an appointed individual—usually a spouse or other kind of family member—is given the power to identify and gather a deceased person's ("decedent's") assets, pay any debts or taxes the decedent owes, and eventually, transfer any remaining assets to the people who will inherit them, either according to the terms of the decedent's will (if one exists) or according to Massachusetts law (if one does not). In 2012, Massachusetts adopted the Uniform Probate Code ("MUPC") in an effort to simplify the state's probate and estate administration process. Below are some key points to keep in mind regarding the probate process:

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Topics: probate

Beware Engaging Banks as Executors - Massachusetts

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 9, 2013

By Harry S. Margolis

Several years ago, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly featured an article about a challenge to a bank's fee to act as executor in the probate of a customer's estate. Often family members fill this role, but when there is no appropriate family member or to avoid a dispute among children, some people appoint professionals. These may be lawyers, accountants, or banks.  In any of these cases, clients should ask about any fees that will be charged and how they will be determined.


In the case at issue, before Fostine Todd died in 2007 at 91, she had executed an estate plan naming a bank that was later bought by TD Banknorth to act as executor of her estate and trustee of her charitable trust. She subsequently passed away, leaving an estate of approximately $5.5 million. TD Banknorth proceeded to fulfill its responsibilities, charging $88,000 for its services and paying an attorney to do the bulk of the work for $25,000.

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Topics: probate, executor fees

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