Tag Archives: probate

2012 Public Policy by the Numbers

2012 was a productive year for the BBA, and Issue Spot would like to look back on the numbers.

2 Amicus Briefs – The BBA filed amicus briefs in Rachel A. Bird Anderson v. BNY Mellon, N.A. trustee and others and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.  The SJC referenced the BBA’s Bird brief in its decision this summer.  The BBA recruited 38 law firms, companies and organizations to join our Fisher brief and was one of 71 amici to file briefs in the high profile case.

2 Court Standing Orders – The Boston Municipal Court made permanent a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) sealing order and the Supreme Judicial Court instituted a pro hac vice admission fee which yielded $49,000 in the first quarter it was collected. Both standing orders were endorsed by the BBA.

7 Laws Took Effect – Seven pieces of legislation the BBA supported took effect in 2012.

 700 Attorneys Attended Walk to the Hill – Lawyers from across Massachusetts filled the State House for the 13th annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid.  More than 50 law firms and organizations were represented.

100+ Lawyers Attended Court Advocacy Day – More than 100 attorneys trekked to the State House to show support for adequate court funding.

2012 was a successful year and we are committed to topping these numbers for 2013.  We still have unfinished business in the Massachusetts Legislature. There are also emerging federal issues we are preparing to tackle.  But as 2012 wraps up, we have much to celebrate.

-Kathleen Joyce
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association
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Change is in the Air at the Probate & Family Court

A hat tip to the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court for embracing change.  Legislative reforms enacted in the last 2.5 years have completely transformed the way business affecting guardianship, conservatorship and alimony is conducted in the Probate and Family Court.  More changes in the area of estate practice will become law by March 31, 2012.

Article V of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, which became effective July 1, 2009, codifies the new laws for guardianship and conservatorship.  These changes provide a person, oftentimes a family member, with legal tools to manage the affairs of an individual who is not legally competent to manage his own affairs.  These new laws also create alternatives to guardianship taking into consideration situations where a person’s incapacity might not impact all aspects of the person’s life.

On March 1, 2012, the new alimony law went into effect (read all about alimony reform in Issue Spot).  At last week’s BBA event “Alimony Reform: Here and Now,” Chief Justice Paula Carey advised attorneys to read the bill and then read it again and again.

And after much anticipation, the remainder of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, which will change estate practice significantly, will become law by the end of this month.  This will substantially change the way business is done in Probate and Family Court.  There’s a lot to know in that area too (Issue Spot has you covered here).

So what is the Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts doing to respond to these things?  Check out their website.  The Probate and Family Court has gone to great lengths to provide practical instructional materials for the public.  Not only does the website have downloadable and printable forms, but the forms can be filled out online.  This might not seem like a big deal but it is and for a couple of reasons:

  1. There is a large and growing population of pro se litigants who appear in court and these are cases that involve family, housing, employment, and financial issues – all of which are of great personal importance.  Cases involving pro se litigants often require more time from judges and court staff to explain the procedures and court rules to pro se litigants.   The self-help resources that are available online are excellent and useful tools.
  2. Having these forms available to the public also saves the Court money.  They no longer have to print the forms and distribute them to the fourteen Probate and Family Court divisions across the state.  The Probate and Family Court is really leading the way in protecting the rights of individuals whose abilities may be compromised due to mental illness or deficiencies.

The new changes to the law in these areas mean a great deal to the courts, but will mean even more to the people who use our courts every day.

– Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association
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Passage of Probate Laws Needed ASAP

The Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (UPC) will be effective for estates on January 2, 2012; it became effective for guardianship on July 1, 2009.  This landmark piece of legislation is something the BBA has worked on and supported for over 20 years.  Not only does the UPC improve what was a deplorable situation concerning the appointment and conduct of guardians, but it will simplify the probate process for families and our courts while expediting the process for administering estates. The UPC facilitates the appointments of executors and also provides options for choosing informal or formal procedures to open and close probate matters.  All in all, lawyers and the courts are pleased with it.

The Probate and Family Court has been educating its staff on the new law and working diligently to promulgate new forms that will be used when the rest of the UPC is rolled out in January.  To supplement their efforts, the BBA will offer a continuing legal education seminar introducing the new estate rules in November to help practitioners navigate the changes.

Now what? The Legislature needs to pass two more bills quickly.  The first, S704, contains technical corrections to the UPC.  These corrective changes address issues that came to light during the initial implementation and take into account things like missed cross references, typos and other oversights. The second bill, the Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code (MUTC), is a companion piece to the UPC.  Since the MUTC repeals most of Article VII of the UPC and replaces it with more current language, it would be advantageous to have all the statutory trust law provisions in the same place in the new MUTC and take effect as scheduled on January 2, 2012.

Like the UPC, the MUTC is a substantial bill that has been well-vetted.  It was produced by the Uniform Laws Commission after a five-year drafting period.  Then in 2005, an ad hoc committee of lawyers, including members of the BBA, was convened to review the bill in detail.  They debated each section of the MUTC and, as a result, what we have is a statute that will simplify and make the trusts laws in Massachusetts more accessible.

Here are just a few reasons that the MUTC should be passed:

  • The laws concerning trust will be uniform, comprehensive and easy to find.
  • It will make the administration of trusts more uniform among the states.
  • It will reduce uncertainty and costly and needless litigation.
  • It provides guidance and protection for trustees who, by the terms of the trust, are to take direction from a non trustee.
  • It simplifies judicial proceeding regarding non judicial settlement agreements and modification and termination of trusts.

January is less than five months away and, realistically, we are looking at a legislative schedule that at best might enact the bills by late September – not a lot of time to conduct the education and training necessary for a smooth implementation next January.  Whatever can be done to facilitate the prompt passage of the MUTC legislation should be done.  Adopting the MUTC will move Massachusetts into the 21st century in trust law.

-Kathleen Joyce

Government Relations Director

BostonBar Association

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