Massachusetts State House.
Policy Library

Statehouse Update

April 10, 2014

It’s been quite a busy week at the Statehouse and we’ve been there through it all – committee hearings, legislation, and the release of the House Ways & Means budget.  The Judiciary Committee resumed its work with back-to-back meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday covering probate issues — domestic relations and custody on day 1 and trusts and estates issues on day 2.  Despite lacking a House chair, the hearings were aptly run by Senator William Brownsberger and House Vice Chair Christopher M. Markey.  Representatives from the BBA testified at both meetings in front of packed hearing rooms.

ImageAt the April 8th hearing, the Family Law Section had a number of bills of interest and Brad Bedingfield spoke on H1
, a bill to amend the adopted children’s law.  The change is related to a case for which the BBA filed an amicus brief, Rachel A. Bird Anderson v. BNY Mellon, N.A., et al.  This case concerned whether adopted children had the same rights as biological children to inheritance under wills written before 1958.  The brief urged the SJC to clarify the applicable estate planning laws after a dispute arose due to the retroactive application of amendments to a 1958 law.  The court held that 1958 law applied, avoiding radical change and affirming practitioners’ expectations.  Bedingfield testified in support of the bill, which further clarifies applicability of the later adopted amendments.  Legislative action would help to avoid confusion and possible litigation related to the Bird decision.

On the April 9th, a panel led by BBA Council member Deborah J. Manus testified on S705, a bill which would revise the current spousal elective share law.  She noted that current law can produce strange and seemingly random outcomes that are often unfair.  For example, Manus noted the new bill would help avoid gamesmanship such as ordering monetary transfers from one’s deathbed in order to disinherit a spouse.  The bill, which is presented after 8 years of study by the BBA, MBA, and WBA, proposes to bring this portion of the law in line with the Uniform Probate Code.  Most of Massachusetts and other states’ probate laws are already aligned with these uniform laws.

Image We will continue to track these bills as they move through the legislative process.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association