Author Archives: Adam Tobin Law

social security changes 2018

You Need to Know About These Social Security Changes for 2018

Many Americans rely on their Social Security benefits to survive after retirement. Therefore, it’s critical to stay up-to-date on the yearly changes and understand how they’ll affect you. As your respected Massachusetts elder law attorney, we have compiled four of the most important changes for 2018:

1. Cost of Living Increase

In 2018, you’ll enjoy the largest cost of living increase since 2012, with a 2% hike. On average, that amounts to an increase of $27 per month. With more money to worry about, it’s the perfect time to reach out to a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer.

2. Full Retirement Age

The full retirement age is set to gradually increase to 67 years old. The specific year you were born will determine exactly when you are eligible for full retirement benefits. If you were born prior to 1954, your retirement age is 66 years. For each year after 1954, your full retirement age increases by two months, until you hit 1960 or later and the full retirement age becomes 67 years old.

3. Taxable Earnings Cap

The taxable earnings cap was also set to rise in 2018. This year, the maximum taxable earnings went up $1,500 to $128,700. This means that if you make more than that, you’ll pay slightly more than you did last year. This is also the amount you’ll need to earn in order to enjoy the maximum benefits upon retirement.

4. Paper Statements

If you were under the age of 60 in 2017, you’re not going to receive a paper Social Security statement any longer. Instead, you’ll need to create an online account with the SSA.

If you need help understanding these changes or to help with estate planning, click here to reach out to us, your premier Massachusetts elder law attorney team.

Baby Boomers, Don’t Make This Retirement Mistake

Don’t make the big mistake of retiring without an estate plan.

Based on data from the Pew Research Center, 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day.

If you’ll be retiring this year or in the next few years, make a New Year’s resolution to create an estate plan.

An estate planning lawyer can help you create the plan that meets your needs.

Estate plans generally include the following six components. We can help you put together a plan that includes all six of these:

A 2017 survey conducted by Caring.com showed that only 42 percent of adults in the United States have estate planning documents in place.

The survey showed that while 81 percent of Americans age 72 or older have a will or living trust, a sizeable 40 percent of baby boomers reported not having a will.

Contact us today to arrange a free consultation with Attorney Adam J. Tobin.

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Three Reasons to Plan in Advance of Alzheimer’s Disease

Three Reasons to Plan in Advance of Alzheimer's DiseaseIt’s estimated that more than 5.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible, yet progressive brain disorder that gradually worsens until death. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of death in the United States. One in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia.

Yes, Alzheimer’s disease is a horrible medical condition, one that you never want to see any family member suffer through. But the reality is that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is growing. The course of the disease can vary from individual to individual, but there’s only one real long-term outcome from people who are diagnosed with it.

We understand how difficult it can be to see a parent or elder family member worsen as the disease runs its course. And that’s why it’s a good idea to plan wills and estates with your loved ones while they’re still in the early stages of the disease. Here’s a closer look at why it’s a good idea to begin planning sooner:

1. Your Loved One Can Be Involved Planning in the early stages of Alzheimer’s still allows your loved one to be involved in the process, thereby making it possible for your loved one to weigh in on future health care decisions as well as finances and real estate decisions.

2. Your Loved One Can Sign a Power of Attorney It allows the loved one to sign a power of attorney, thereby giving legal power to someone other than themselves when Alzheimer’s disease worsens.

3. You and Your Loved One Can Have Peace of Mind You and your family member are both able to meet with an elder attorney, have your questions answered, and be advised by a professional, so that you both can rest assured that things are in good hands. Taking action early can help avoid a lot of confusion, stress, and frustration later on as the Alzheimer’s condition worsens.

While it’s never fun to have to think about things like wills, power of attorney, and estate planning, taking action and planning ahead is a crucial step toward avoiding problems down the road.

Start Early to Plan for Your Retirement

retirementWhen is the right time to start planning for retirement? It’s not when you’re 30 or 45 or 50. It’s right now, no matter what your present age is.

You can’t start too early to save for retirement, but you CAN start too late. Whether you’re starting your first job as a young adult or are a seasoned professional with decades of work experience, the funds you set aside starting now will make a critical difference in how comfortable you are in your later years.

To help you get the ball rolling, here are 7 tips that can help you make the most of your savings strategy:

1. Know how much you will need to live on when you retire.

Financial consultants offer easy-to-use tools that will estimate how much you will need at a set age, and how much you should set aside on a regular basis to reach that goal. Using one of these calculators can help you to map out your savings strategy. Seeking the advice of a Massachusetts elder lawyer or estate planning attorney can be immensely helpful as well.

2. Set up a retirement savings plan with your employer.

If you work for a company or corporation, then inquire with the human resources department about whether the company offers a 401(k), a traditional pension, or other long-term savings vehicles. Not only do these offer significant tax advantages, the money usually comes directly out of your paycheck, making this perhaps the easiest way there is to save for retirement.

3. Set up a SEP-IRA account if you are self-employed.

If you’re self-employed, then look into starting a self-employed IRA, also known as a SEP-IRA. These are program set up by the government that offer those who work for themselves many of the same advantages that employees enjoy with a 401(k).

4. Create and monitor a retirement savings budget.

Budget how much you’ll need between now and retirement to reach your savings goal. Adjust the rest of your finances to fit around that amount. While exercising this self-discipline may be difficult at times, doing so is essential for enjoying a comfortable retirement. In time you will thank yourself for the sacrifices you make now.

5. Don’t rely solely on Social Security benefits.

Don’t count on Social Security to be there when you need it. To stay solvent, the government has already adjusted the minimum retirement age for Social Security recipients more than once. In the future, it’s possible that benefit amounts and other features of the program will be adjusted multiple times.

6. Set up no-brainer ways to save money over the long term.

Explore ways to save money without reducing your current lifestyle. For example, you may forgo eating out at a restaurant once a week, directing the money you save into your retirement account. Some consumers clip coupons, buy in bulk, and use other tricks to keep more money in their bank accounts. You’ll find plenty of online resources that explain how these techniques work.

7. Visualize your ideal retirement life.

Take some time to imagine all the things you’d like to do when you’re retired. Imagine yourself traveling the country, sightseeing through Europe, or whatever matches your interests and passions. It’s amazing how taking the time to do this can supercharge your motivation, making it easier to save for retirement. Keep in mind the need to plan for final expenses as well. A living trust attorney can offer specific guidance on this important matter.

By following these tips, you’ll find yourself well on your way to meeting your long-term financial goals. Good luck and happy saving!

right trustee

Choosing the Right Trustee for Your Living Trust

You don’t need to be a living trust attorney to understand just how difficult estate planning can be. One of the most challenging parts of planning an estate is choosing the appropriate trustee.

An estate’s trustee is the person responsible for managing all assets in your Revocable Living Trust. You can choose to have a person, organization or company represent you as the chief trustee.

It’s important to find someone who will be dedicated to carrying out your wishes, whether or not that person agrees with the direction you’ve chosen for your estate. You also need to find a trustee who will act with complete responsibility. Here are a few other considerations to think about when selecting a trustee:

Trustworthiness

The word “trust” is included in “trustee” for a reason: the trustee must be a person or an organization that you trust, fully and without reservation. The trustee will have a lot of control over your estate, so it would not be prudent to choose someone who you didn’t feel was capable of carrying out that task.

Pros and Cons of Choosing Family Members

Depending on the type of trust you’re holding, your family members may or may not be able to serve as trustee. You’ll want to check with your estate planning attorney to ensure that a family member is eligible to be named trustee. You’ll also want to take the ages of potential trustees into account if you are thinking of naming your children or grandchildren. As in most states, the minimum age to be named a trustee in Massachusetts is 21.

There are certain advantages to choosing a family member as your trustee. The reduced cost is definitely something worth considering. You are likely already paying the fees for a probate lawyer, elder attorney or other professionals. A family trustee would mean one less bill to pay.

The main disadvantage of naming a family member as the trustee is that he or she probably has absolutely no experience in these matters. The responsibilities of trustees have grown increasingly complicated, so you may not feel it is your place to give a family member such as huge responsibility to take care of.

Pros and Cons of Choosing a Professional Advisor

Some people feel that estate planning is best left in the family, but there are certain advantages to hiring a professional to carry out the process. A professional advisor understands the entire estate planning process, and will be more likely to keep all records and information organized. The professional can work closely with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney to keep everything in order.

Although there is some extra cost involved in hiring a professional, you may actually end up saving money in the long run. A professional trustee will know how to minimize estate taxes and other costs typically associated with estate planning. In the end, you’ll want to discuss such considerations with your family so that you can make the appropriate decision.

aging in place

Planning Ahead to Age in Place

As you approach retirement age, it’s time to start considering the next big steps in your life. This might include traveling, taking classes, and all sorts of activities that you didn’t have time for while you were raising a family and working full-time. It also includes considerations for how you’d like to live as you age. The perfect time to start planning is as soon as possible. This way, you’ll never have to worry that loved ones will need to make decisions for you.

As you age, living arrangements will become an issue. If you’re in good health when you retire, this might seem like a far-off future you don’t want to consider. But if you’d like to age in your own home, or have ideas about where you’d like to live out the last years of your life, planning ahead can make this transition much easier for yourself and your family.

Planning for your needs as you age will help you make sure that you’re as comfortable and content as possible throughout your life. Now is the perfect time to sit down and assess the type of lifestyle you might like in coming years. Here’s a checklist to get you started:

Get Legal Documents in Order

An elder law attorney can counsel you on the type of legal documents that would be beneficial for your life and situation. Some considerations might include creating a will, creating a trust, and consolidating your beneficiaries on insurance policies. You might also want to name an executor to handle financial matters and arrange for a health care proxy. Often illness is unexpected and it’s better to have these things set up properly as a safety precaution.

Make Renovations to Stay in Your Own Home

If you have a home you love and would like to remain there for your lifetime, it’s important to assess the house for your needs as you age. While you may be in good health now, consider that you may not always be able to climb stairs or may need modifications for certain areas of the home. Often these can be accomplished easily, such as installing chair lifts or ramps for steps and adding handrails to bathrooms. Another idea is to remodel your home to add a master bedroom on the first floor.

Think About Downsizing

The pre-retirement years are the right time to consider downsizing to a smaller home. Don’t just think about the size of the house, however. Pre-retirement homeowners consider many factors when making the decision to downsize. These include location, access to mass transit, walkability, and lot size and maintenance needs. Make a list of criteria and prioritize them to suit your living needs and preferences. Update the list from time to time. When you’re ready to start house hunting, you’ll have a ready-made strategy to help you find the right home.

For example, if you don’t want to have to drive everywhere, mow a large expanse of lawn, and walk upstairs to turn in for the night, your home search will focus on neighborhoods with access to public transit, homes with smaller lots, and homes with a first-floor master bedroom.

Be sure to make one of your criteria universal design features. These are home design features that make a home suitable for all ages and mobility levels. Doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or handicap rails in all bathrooms are just two examples. It’s important that you find a home that  would be comfortable for you if you were limited in mobility.

Many retirees start making plans to age in place well before they need them. This gives you ample opportunity to prepare ahead of time and let your family know what your wishes are. If you or a loved one needs help in estate planning or has questions about elder law, contact us today for more information.

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elder

Is Now the Time for an Elder Law Attorney?

If you’re like most people, you never thought about hiring an elder law attorney before a situation made you wonder if you needed one. You might not know exactly what this type of lawyer can do to help as your parents or loved ones age. If you, yourself, are aging, you might be concerned that not having all of your end-of-life responsibilities accounted for will be a burden to your family. So the questions you might ask are, “Do I need an elder law attorney?” and “Is it too soon to seek professional guidance on these issues?”

What Does An Elder Law Attorney Do?

Understanding some of the many things that an elder law attorney can help you arrange will help you determine whether or not it’s time to seek guidance. This type of lawyer often works with estate planning and issues, such as power of attorney, for those who are unable to make their own medical and financial decisions. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to wait until the very end of life to hire one. In fact, it’s much better if you have all of your planning done in advance of any great medical catastrophe. Here are some of the things and elder attorney can help you arrange:

  • Estate Planning There may be a number of variables in play when determining how to best organize your estate. An elder attorney can counsel you on the specifics of the law, help determine the best trustees and power of attorney, and help create a last will so that family members won’t need to worry about transferring funds or property to the proper party.
  • Power of Attorney There are different types of power of attorney which can be essential for medical and financial decisions in the event you or a loved one can no longer communicate your wishes.
  • Living Wills An elder attorney can help draft a living will so that a person’s medical wishes are met in the event they can no longer answer for themselves.
  • Financial Planning An elder attorney can assist your family with financial planning to help your loved one live out their remaining days with peace of mind.

Do You Need an Elder Attorney?

If you’re asking the questions, it’s not too early to seek a consultation. Organizing your final affairs is often easy and affordable. Even if the planning you’ve put in place won’t be needed for many years, you can rest assured that your family will be taken care of in any event.

Contact us to arrange a free consultation with Attorney Adam J. Tobin,

Five Ideas for Celebrating Mother’s Day with Your Elder

mother's day

Mother’s Day is traditionally a day of celebrating and thanking mothers—and every mother deserves that honor. When your mother has Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, Mother’s Day can be an exceptionally emotional day to maneuver. The day can spark memories of what Mom was like before she got sick and there are so many things that she can no longer enjoy that go hand in hand with traditional celebrations.

You can still pay homage to the day and spend quality time with your mother even with the challenges of dementia or ill health.

Most traditional Mother’s Day activities can be modified so that your ailing mother can still enjoy them with you. Here are a few ideas to make this Mother’s Day special.

  • A Special Brunch. If Mom is well enough to go out to eat, you can take her to a favorite restaurant. But being homebound doesn’t mean that you have to forego a special meal. You can bring a prepared brunch and even linens and fine china to make the meal more festive.
  • Get Out in Nature. Getting out in the fresh air and sunshine can lift anyone’s spirits. Depending on Mom’s physical mobility, this might mean a walk, sitting out on the patio, or driving to her favorite beach to spend a little time.
  • Watch Home Videos. Watching home videos or looking through family photo albums can be an excellent way to reminisce with your mom.
  • Plan an Activity. Activities will largely depend on how advanced your mom’s illness is. You might be able to do some arts and crafts or work on puzzles at the table. You can also plan an activity that’s something she traditionally liked before she became ill.
  • Cook Together. If you have access to a kitchen, cooking or baking together can be a great way to spend the day with mom.

Dealing with elderly parents who have illnesses often means some limitations on what you might have done for holidays in the past. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy Mother’s Day. Think back on how you traditionally celebrated and see if there’s a way to tailor those events to your mother’s current needs.

Another tip: Be sure to include a bouquet of flowers or a corsage in your Mother’s Day plans. Mom will appreciate the thoughtfulness as much as the beauty and enjoyment of receiving a beautiful arrangement created just for her.

The Law Offices of Adam J. Tobin serves clients in Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, and Worcester counties. Contact us for experienced, professional help in Estate Planning, Elder Law, and Probate administration.

Tips for Helping Your Elderly Relative Downsize

downsize

While every situation is different, downsizing one’s living situation can be traumatic for anyone. For the elderly, it often becomes an emotional process. Downsizing might mean moving into a retirement community or moving in with a loved one. Regardless of their physical state, seniors often feel that they are losing some of the autonomy they enjoyed with youth. Downsizing a residence can also be a reminder of the passing years and, in fact, one’s own mortality. These milestones are natural, but that doesn’t make them any less difficult to deal with for some people.

As an adult child or a caregiver, your responsibility can seem immense. Not only do you need to proceed in the best way to protect your relative’s assets, but you also need to handle the situation in a way that’s as emotionally healthy as possible. Downsizing often means going through a lifetime of accumulation; a houseful of cherished memories and just regular, every day, possessions. But the only person who really knows the worth of any given item is the person who owns it. That can make helping the process very difficult.

While downsizing may be more or less taxing, depending on the disposition of the person moving, these tips can help keep you organized and on task.

  • Assess First. Really take some time going through your elderly relatives belongings to see how much physical work might be required. You should also take this opportunity to speak with an elder attorney and help your loved one put their affairs in order to alleviate any financial strain.
  • Make a Plan. Once you know how much work will be needed, set a schedule and make a plan for who will be involved and when things will get done. Depending on your relative’s physical health, they may not be able to help but they’ll still want to direct which things should stay and which should go.
  • Appeal to Their Frugality. If your relative is unhappy about throwing away items, you might appeal to their budget-conscious side. Help them put together a plan for an estate sale or start selling items through an online venue. It can become a fun activity for them once they see the proceeds adding to their savings.
  • Leave Enough Time. Don’t only think about the hours it would take you to do the work. Think about the extra time your relative might need to say goodbye to items and acclimate. Leaving more time is much better than not having enough.
  • Items That Once Belonged to Children. Often the elderly are holding on to items that belonged to their now-adult children or grandchildren. It’s a great idea to have these family members help them go through things to save items they might want or give them permission to give them away or sell them.

Making the decision to move from a long-time primary residence can be traumatic. It can mean leaving behind a well-loved home of many years. While every case is different, it’s important to listen to the wants and needs of your relative and make sure that they are comfortable throughout the process.

For more information on elder estate planning to better prepare for the future, contact us today.

Social Security Changes for 2017 You Need to Know About

Social Security changes

Social Security benefits are critical to many Americans’ retirement plans, so it’s important to know exactly how they work. As your respected Massachusetts elder law attorney, here are the four most important Social Security changes for 2017.

1. Cost of Living

In 2017, you will see a slight raise in your benefits. All Americans receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income will receive a 0.3 percent cost-of-living increase. As this started on December 30, 2016, you should have already noticed a slight bump in payments.

2. Full Retirement Age

If you’ve been working with your Massachusetts estate planning lawyer to plan your retirement at age 65, unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a little longer. For people born January 2, 1955 through January 1, 1956, the new age of retirement is 66 years and 2 months old. This will gradually increase until it hits 67 years old for anyone born in 1960 or later.

3. Early Retirement Penalty

In addition to an increase in retirement age, there’s also a stronger penalty for anyone who decides to claim their benefits early. If you claim benefits as early as you can (at the age of 62), you’ll be penalized by a full 25%. Keep in mind that this penalty is for life.

4. Beneficiaries Who Work Thresholds

If you work while receiving benefits, your benefits can be reduced if you earn over a certain threshold. Luckily, these thresholds are being raised:

  • Reach full retirement age after 2017, you may earn $16,920 this year without a reduction.
  • Reach full retirement age during 2017, you may earn $44,880 this year without a reduction.

If you need help planning your retirement or simply need some legal advice, make sure to reach out to us as your trusted Massachusetts nursing home attorney team!