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!

estate planning

Kick-Start Estate Planning During National Estate Planning Awareness Week

Estate planning is one of those life tasks that may keep moving to the bottom of your list.

You’re not alone, however. The National Association of Estate Planners and Councils estimates that more than 120 million Americans do not have the adequate estate planning needed to protect their families and loved ones in the event of a health emergency or unexpected death.

If you or an elder family member don’t have an estate plan, consider taking part in National Estate Planning Awareness Week by speaking with a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer to begin your own estate planning process or find out how you might assist an older relative with theirs.

Improper estate planning can be financially and emotionally devastating to those who must deal with its consequences. That’s one reason why the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (NAECP) established National Estate Planning Awareness Week in 2008.

Founded in 1962, the NAEPC is a non-profit business league with a strong commitment to promote financial and estate planning throughout the year. During National Estate Planning Awareness Week, the organization sponsors seminars and webinars and provides educational materials to members of the estate planning profession.

This year’s even takes place from October 16 through 22.

A Massachusetts elder law attorney can assist you with issues regarding financial wellness, such as budgeting, insurance, tax planning and investing.

We can work with you to develop a plan for charitable giving, organizing important documents or protecting the financial interests of your family.

By promoting National Estate Planning Awareness Week, the experts at NAECP are confident that more people will discover that estate planning is not just about what happens after you die. It’s about improving the quality of your life.

To take full advantage of National Estate Planning Awareness week, be proactive in creating or updating the estate and financial plans that will most benefit you and your family.

• Organize your important documents and make a list of assets and liabilities.
• Make a list of your financial advisers.
• Identify your goals, including retirement plans, goals for charitable giving, goals for your children or other beneficiaries and for your long-term healthcare.
• List the questions you would like to discuss with an estate planning professional.
• Interview a Massachusetts elder lawyer, ask how many years of experience they have in estate planning, what and how fees are charges and if they offer an introductory meeting free-of-charge.
• Bring your documents and lists to the initial meeting.
• Discuss your goals with the attorney and see if you believe he or she is the right person to assist you.

It will take more than one week to develop or update your plans, but with proper preparation you can make the most of your initial meeting and save many hours of billable time.

But what’s more important, you will be providing emotional and financial security for your loved ones and peace of mind for yourself.

CC BY-SA 3.0 Nick Youngson

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.

10 Signs Your Senior May Need In-Home Elder Care

 

in-homeAs your loved one gets older, it may be time to consider some in-home care to help them remain safe in their home. While many people can live in their own home for a long time as they age, there are often signs that it’s time to find help in order to give your loved one the assurance and support they need. If you are wondering whether a loved one needs in-home care or not, it’s time to look for the following signs:

  1. Personal grooming is neglected and your loved one looks more disheveled.
  2. The home is less clean than normal. Basic household chores like laundry and dishes are getting ignored.
  3. Your loved one is losing weight because of a poor diet.
  4. There has been a recent fall or your loved one is afraid to fall while home alone.
  5. You notice that medication is not being taken properly.
  6. Your loved one is no longer active or going out much.
  7. Mail and bills are being ignored and piling up.
  8. You discover that a loved one has become the victim of fraud or has been easily scammed.
  9. It’s become harder to take care of your loved one’s basic needs on your own.
  10. You find your loved one gets confused more easily or appears disoriented.

When you have a loved one who you are concerned about, it’s important to carefully assess their needs. Most people want to stay independent and may try to hide any need for help from family members. Talk with your loved one and begin having the conversation of bringing in a little help to the home. When you have open and honest communication, you’ll have a better chance at keeping your loved one safe. Be reassuring during this conversation about your goals to keep your loved one at home with a little help.

Your loved one needs to feel in control of the situation and may fear being removed from the home if they are honest about their needs. Your loved one can remain at home with significant care, and you need to make sure that this is understood. Keep your loved ones safe by getting them the help they deserve when they are struggling to care for their own needs at home.

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.

adam-tobin-law-cta

 

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!

Elder Care Resolutions for the New Year

resolutions

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who are raising your own family while providing support for aging parents, the new year can be a great time to reassess. This point in your life will likely be the busiest and most emotionally difficult.

With life pulling you in so many directions as a caregiver and a person, here are a few resolutions you can implement to make the most of the coming year for and your loved one.

1. Spend Quality Time Together. Once you’ve come to the stage where there are caretaking needs for elderly relatives, it sometimes becomes very difficult to enjoy time together because there are so many new responsibilities. Socializing and spending time together can actually improve your elder relative’s health and it also affords you time to create new memories which you’ll cherish.

2. Assess Your Elderly Loved One’s Home Situation. Whether your relative lives independently, in a care facility, or in your own home, it’s important to assess where they’re living each year. Their health needs may change over time and things that weren’t thought of months ago will be an issue going forward. Take stock of things like their mobility, whether or not they need caregivers at their location, and alternatives for regular support while allowing for as much independence as they are able to have.

3. Review Medical and Dietary Needs. Different aspects of aging can change dietary needs and appetite. Assess whether or not aging relatives are thriving health-wise and determine if they need changes in their care, diet, and hydration. This might include arranging for someone to do the shopping, having Meals on Wheels brought in to assist, or other options. Daily calling services can be arranged to remind elders to drink water, take medication, and move around.

4. Visit an Elder Attorney. Taking care of final affairs can be an emotional process, but it’s important for your elderly relatives to have their legal paperwork in order to better care for their needs and fulfill their wishes. An elder attorney can help you determine what steps to take, depending on the family member’s health and situation. This might include a living trust, power of attorney, or other measures to make sure that there is a family member who can help determine medical and financial decisions in the event that they are no longer able.

5. Take Time for You. With all of the responsibility in caring for your older relatives and your own family, you’re probably not taking as much time as you need to manage your own health. You can’t help anyone else if you’re making yourself sick or wearing yourself down. So take the proper steps to make sure you get the best medical and emotional support you need.

Taking responsibility for the care of elderly family members can be an emotional and exhausting time. For many, it’s also exceptionally rewarding to get to spend the remaining time together.

If you’re interested in more information on elder law to better prepare for the future, contact us today.