Welcome to a brand-new decade! It’s halfway through January, and we hope you’ve already made progress on your life-changing resolutions for the coming year. Here are a few recommendations from our colleagues at Mountain, Dearborn & Whiting for law-related resolutions that you can add to your list—now, or anytime this year:

1. Katherine Bagdis, Partner, Litigation and Family Law: If you “popped the question” over the holidays, now is a good time to consider whether you and your soon-to-be spouse should execute a prenuptial agreement prior to the wedding.

2. Robin DeAugustinis, Partner, Commercial Lending and Real Estate Law: If you haven’t already done so, please execute and record a Declaration of Homestead on your primary residence immediately. Read how and why in my 5-4-17 blog post, “Protect Your Nest This Spring: File a Declaration of Homestead.”

3. Nina Dow, Associate, Trusts, Estates, and Tax Law: The SECURE Act, signed into law on January 1, 2020, significantly impacts your retirement plan(s). There are two major changes:

  • The Act removes stretch RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions), unless an exception applies. If you’ve inherited a retirement plan, it must be depleted by the tenth year following the participant’s death.
  • For owners of retirement plans, the age by which you must take your required minimum distribution has been raised from 70.5 to 72 for persons born after June 30, 1949.

Be sure to review your estate plan with a focus on your retirement plan in light of these and other changes in the SECURE Act.

4. Paul Foley, Partner, Business & Corporate Law and Litigation: Every New Year is an opportunity for growth, both personally and professionally. If you’re a business owner, it’s an ideal time to evaluate your relationships with key personnel. For example:

  • Do your key personnel have room and an incentive to grow into your business?
  • Do they have an employment agreement?
  • Do they have a stock incentive plan?
  • Are there issues that need to get aired to allow each of you to succeed together in the New Year?

In a strong economy, it can be hard to find and retain the people who make your company special and who make it hum. So, this January, give some thought to those individuals and how you can improve their lot for an even happier New Year next January 1.

5. Patricia Finnegan Gates, Partner, Commercial Lending & Real Estate Law and Litigation: If you believe your real estate taxes are too high, file for a tax abatement with your tax assessor as soon as possible. You must file an Abatement Application with your city or town on or before the last day for payment of the first installment of the tax bill due as shown on the “Actual” (as opposed to the “Preliminary”) tax bill. This date can vary from municipality to municipality.

Please note that you must pay your real estate taxes on time to be eligible to file for an Abatement. If you miss the filing deadline, you are precluded from applying. In the likely event that your Application for Abatement is denied, you will have 90 days from the date of the denial to appeal to the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board.

6. James O’Brien, Partner, Litigation: Whether you have personal or corporate insurance, consider speaking with your insurance agent to make certain that your policies cover potential claims that could emanate from your activities. Also be certain that you have sufficient liability coverage with regard to your home or place of business. Take the time to review with your insurance agent which types of incidents may or may not be covered under your policy—before an unanticipated accident threatens your livelihood. In addition, I recommend that clients secure a so-called “umbrella” insurance policy that can cover clients for virtually all liability claims. Coverage of $1 million is generally not very costly and provides additional protection.

7. Stephen Roche, Associate, General Practice: Whether you operate a limited liability company or a corporation, make sure that you are up-to-date on required filing of annual reports so that your company can remain in good standing and avoid any unnecessary delays or headaches down the road.