The interplay between inheritance, trusts, and divorce raises a series of issues every estate planning and family law attorney must be prepared to address. What steps should estate planning attorneys take to protect assets prior to or in anticipation of divorce? What is the procedure for courts to value a trust interest for purposes of equitable distribution and/or support payments? What are the recent legal decisions that influence practices related to inheritance, trusts interests, or divorce? Attend this online program to hear expert faculty answer these questions and others that arise when these topics collide.
It is a tremendous honor to announce that Jonathan E. Fields has been selected by Best Lawyers. This honor is bestowed on him by both his clients and peers. Best Lawyers was started four decades ago by two Harvard Law Graduates and is one of the most prestigious peer review publications. Their Lawyer lists are compiled by tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluating their professional peers. No fees can be paid to become listed in the Best Lawyers publications. If the lawyer is recognized as a Best Lawyer they must maintain their subsequent votes in the polls to continue to be included in future editions.
It is a tremendous honor to announce that Sheryl J. Dennis has been selected by Best Lawyers. This honor is bestowed on her by both her clients and peers. Best Lawyers was started four decades ago by two Harvard Law Graduates and is one of the most prestigious peer review publications. Their Lawyer lists are compiled by tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluating their professional peers. No fees can be paid to become listed in the Best Lawyers publications. If the lawyer is recognized as a Best Lawyer they must maintain their subsequent votes in the polls to continue to be included in future editions.
Inspired lawyer proposes Bench-Bar Civility Honor Roll
Across the nation and in Massachusetts, there has been a call to arms to promulgate civility in all bench-bar facets. For example, annually the American Inns of Court designates a month to spotlight the need to work toward a “vision of a legal profession and judiciary dedicated to professionalism, ethics, civility and excellence.”
And, as recently as Feb. 22, the Massachusetts Bar Association held a program on “How the Bench and Bar Can Work Together to Improve Lawyer Civility.” While I believe we can all agree that it is easy to “talk the talk,” when there are no directional signposts to navigate theory into practice insofar as “walking the talk,” we are left to wonder where the rubber meets the road. Just three days after the MBA conference, I was privileged to have witnessed firsthand a spontaneous act of civility at its finest.
At long last, on Feb. 25, we had a 9 a.m. hearing on an uncontested G.L.c. 208, §1A, divorce case. The parties had been waiting since July 2020 for their court date. After two and a half hours in the Zoom waiting room, parties and counsel were finally called for the hearing.
The judge asked for a clarification and written edit to the child support section of the separation agreement and told us she could not approve the agreement as is.
After attorney Jared Wood and I hammered out a written revision, attorney Wood snatched victory from the jaws of defeat: He dashed out to his car, drove to the parties’ homes to get their original signatures on the edited agreement, and then rushed to the Middlesex County courthouse to flag down a court officer and get the revised agreement into the hands of the judge’s clerk. (There may or may not have been the necessity for attorney Wood to have not one but two McDonald’s cheeseburgers and a milkshake on the way back to his office, for his emotional and physical fortification.)
Just three days after the MBA conference, I was privileged to have witnessed firsthand a spontaneous act of civility at its finest.
At 3 p.m., parties and counsel took a leap of faith by signing back into the judge’s Zoom waiting room. With five minutes to spare, at 3:55 p.m., the judge gave us a second call, enabling the parties to have their long-awaited hearing and their agreement approved. None of this could have happened without attorney Wood’s tenacity, grace and kindness under pressure. He literally went the extra mile(s)! In his honor, I propose that we institute a Bench-Bar Civility Honor Roll to inspire us to attain the lofty theoretical “vision of a legal profession and judiciary dedicated to professionalism, ethics, civility and excellence” — and to celebrate the role models among us who have truly elevated their professional practices as models of civility. For, in the end, they are our guideposts. See full article
Vicki L. Shemin is a partner at Fields & Dennis in Wellesley. She can be contacted at VShemin@FieldsDennis.com.
Expertise selected Fields and Dennis as one of the top Divorce Lawyers in the Boston area.
Each year Expertise.com reviews over 326 divorce lawyers in the Boston area to find the top 19 in the area. Fields and Dennis LLP was selected as one of them. They base their selections on five criteria.
- Availability, or its responsiveness and availability to their customers.
- Qualifications, do they build customer confidence with their licensing, accreditations, and awards?
- Reputation, do they have a history of outstanding service?
- Experience, are they masters of their craft?
- Professionalism, do they provide service with honesty, reliability, and respect.
Fields and Dennis LLP has met and exceeded these expectations!
The article below was written by Vicki L. Shemin, J.D., LICSW, ACSW and published in Citybizlist on January 25, 2021
Lest you think that the proprieties and perplexities surrounding broken engagements are a modern phenomenon, we need only look back to the 15th century.
It is said that in 1477, Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned the very first diamond engagement ring on record for his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, thus setting a penchant for diamond engagement rings among the higher echelons of European society.
With that stage set, the marketing genius of DeBeers was sure to follow. And, nowadays, it seems that engagements have become all about the diamond ring.
But fast forward a bit and then show me an announcement of a broken engagement. The next exclamation is inevitably: “Did she give back the ring?” (Apologies for falling into the typical gender trap.)
Did she? Should she? With some statistics estimating that a quarter of a million engagements do not end in marriage, this is a significant fiscal and sociological question with both legal and moral implications.
As with all things marital, the answer to what a court is likely to do when it comes to “who gets to keep the ring” depends on varying state laws (by which I do not mean to imply that the law is always as clear as a princess cut).
Typically, these cases are analyzed as to whether the intent was to give the ring as a gift, whether the ring was actually given as a gift, and whether the donee accepted the ring as a gift. But wait…there’s more. A conditional promise to marry is also attached. More to the point, the majority of states have taken the view that if the affianced does not perform on the promise to marry, then the ring must be returned as that token was itself the consideration for the promise to say “I do.”
But that analysis would be too simple. Some states – like Massachusetts – take fault into consideration and consider who broke off the engagement. After satisfying that inquiry, the one who broke off the engagement does not get the ring. While that might appear to be an elegantly simple resolution, anyone who knows human nature understands that the person who actually broke off the engagement may well have been provoked to do so, or, may have done so because their louse spouse-not-to-be was really at fault.
But, back to elegantly simple solutions. Consider Montana! That state takes an approach as clear as a gem. The engagement ring is deemed to be an unconditional gift that is kept by the recipient – despite whether the marriage ever happens and despite who pulled the plug on the engagement.
In case you are wondering, is the law more settled when it comes to wedding bands or engagement rings after the marriage? I think not. While some would strenuously argue that wedding rings are marital property subject to division in the event of divorce, others would counterpunch they are completed gifts because any preconditions attached to the gift have been met (i.e., the wedding itself sealed the deal).
Are there any escape clauses? A least two worth noting. First, if an engagement ring is given on a holiday or birthday, some say that the argument is strengthened that the ring was merely a completed gift irrespective of whether the marriage goes forward or not because the ring is less attached to the promise of marriage and relates more to the occasion of the special date on which it was given. So, let that be a cautionary tale for those who are contemplating a Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or New Year’s proposal. Second, if the engagement ring is a family heirloom, this should be a no-brainer dictating that it should be returned to the donor.
So, what’s the law about the propriety of who gets to keep the ring? Indeed, what’s fair in this facet of “all’s fair in love and war”?
Well, as all things in the law, the answer is what law students are taught on their first day of law school: “it depends.”
And, even at that, are we talking about human laws, or, underlying moral codes (as the latter cannot be legislated)?
Vicki L. Shemin, J.D., LICSW, ACSW, a divorce lawyer and clinical social worker, is a partner at Fields and Dennis LLP in Wellesley. She can be reached at 781.489.6776 or VShemin@FieldsDennis.com.
Attorney Jonathan E. Fields was quoted in today’s Wall Street Journal
Millennials Embrace Prenups—but Through a Very Different Lens Than in the Past
Millennials are using prenups to address new economic and social issues—including rising student debt, social-media use and embryo ownership
By Cheryl Winokur Munk
Jan. 21, 2021 1:00 pm ET
Millennials are often known to buck convention. That seems to be true even when it comes to prenuptial agreements.
In the past, prenups were most common among young adults from wealthy families or couples entering second or third marriages. Today, younger adults of all income levels are drafting them, not only to protect assets accumulated before and during marriage but to address societal realities that weren’t necessarily present or common years ago, such as a desire to keep finances separate, student debt, social-media use, embryo ownership and even pet care.
Experts point to the fact that many millennials are children of divorced parents and have had an intimate look at what can happen financially when a marriage dissolves. At the same time, the stigma or taboo that used to be associated with discussing money before marriage is slowly disappearing.
Jonathan Fields, a family-law attorney and divorce mediator with Fields and Dennis LLP in Wellesley, Mass., says he also is getting requests from younger clients to address social media in prenups to ensure that one spouse can’t write nasty things about the other in the event they break up. He says he tries to discourage such clauses because he’s concerned it could run into First Amendment issues, but if clients insist, he includes it using broad language related to not discussing each other negatively, or to their children, for example.
A typical clause, he says, would prohibit the dissemination—without prior written and/or electronic consent—of information that could disparage or harm the other or the other’s public image. This could cover all media, including photographs, video, blogging, texting, tweeting, tagging, and posting on any social-media site, service or platform, he says.
Vicki L. Shemin, J.D., LICSW, ACSW was presented with Avvo Clients’ Choice Award Badge for 2021. This award is given to attorneys whose outstanding legal services have resulted in highly satisfied clients. There’s nothing that an attorney can do to ask for a Clients’ Choice Award. Instead, Avvo makes the award based only on quality reviews from satisfied clients throughout the year.
Snap Judgments: Lawyers predict issue that will dominate legal landscape in 2021
Q. Prediction time: What issue on the horizon will dominate the legal landscape in 2021?
“Five hours of time for a five-minute hearing has never seemed so wasteful. With the experience of remote hearings, will the courts realize that, in 2021 and beyond, we cannot go back to the old way of doing things?”
Jonathan E. Fields
Fields & Dennis, Wellesley
“In 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine’s impact on the workforce will dominate the legal landscape. Employers will grapple with vaccine resistance, some due to disability, some due to religious beliefs, some due to fear, and some due to deep-seated distrust of governmental vaccination programs ( i.e., the Tuskegee Study). Health officials and employers alike must establish trust through compliance with federal and state public health initiatives and anti-discrimination guidelines.”
Denise I. Murphy, president
Massachusetts Bar Association
“Race and criminal justice. Will the police reform legislation emerging on Beacon Hill actually deliver on the promise to make police officers and departments accountable to the public — especially in communities of color? And will the Legislature, the courts and the legal profession step up to meet the challenge presented by the Harvard Law School study, commissioned by Chief Justice Gants, that so vividly documented profound racial inequality in our criminal justice system?”
Martin F. Murphy, president
Boston Bar Association
“How the legal system conducts jury trials and deals with the overall backlog are going to be the most pressing legal questions in the coming year. There are hundreds of pending cases, and figuring out how we are going to safely and constitutionally handle them in a post-COVID society is something we are all focused on. We need to make sure that those who have the least are not left behind as we try to rebuild our legal system.”
Anthony J. Benedetti
Committee for Public Counsel Services
“Evictions and foreclosures, unless there is an extended moratorium. In anticipation, I’m rewriting §10:2 ‘Foreclosure Defense’ with a subsection on eviction defense, for 28 Mass. Practice: Real Estate Law, of which I’m the current author. As in the 1930s’ Great Depression, we may see mass civil disobedience to block foreclosure auctions and evictions, bankruptcies of residential and commercial landlords, and bank failures. Hunger and desperation may lead to increased crime, especially theft of food.”
Green, Miles, Lipton, Northampton
“Employers will likely face complex and vexing issues on whether to require employees to take the COVID vaccines. So far there are not government requirements, but that may change as the vaccines prove effective. Presently, the issue of mandatory vaccinations raises the issue of ADA strictures as well as Title VII religious issues. The EEOC just issued guidelines yesterday, but not requirements. Stay tuned!”
Andrew P. Botti
McLane Middleton, Woburn
“Immigration law dominates the legal landscape in 2021. The incoming administration will be under significant pressure to undo the most harmful policies of the Trump administration. Changes in the immigration courts, asylum laws, green card applications, as well as restoration of DACA and Temporary Protected Status will occupy much of the administration’s first days. The Biden administration faces a gargantuan task, and because of that immigration law will be a continuing hot topic in 2021.”
Susan B. Church
Demissie & Church, Cambridge
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