Category Archives: Elder Law Lawyer

It’s Never Too Early to Draft a Will: Tips and Information

Making a will doesn't have to be difficult or expensive, but it does take the desire to follow through. If you are working with, or considering finding a Massachusetts elder law attorney or Massachusetts nursing home attorney for the affairs of your aging parents, you will soon discover the value of that decision. An experienced Massachusetts estate planning lawyer can save you untold amounts of stress and money, and provides an amazing amount of peace of mind. You may also discover something you did not expect…that it is never too early to draft a will of your own.

If going through this exercise with your parents has you considering putting your own affairs in order, here are some valuable tips to help you in the process.

  • Choose an appropriate executor. This person should have organizational skills, be detail oriented and should accept the responsibility willingly.
  • Select a back-up executor. A substitute executor will serve in the event you and your primary executor were to die simultaneously. This is quite possible where spouses select each other, but then don’t choose a substitute.
  • Select an experienced attorney.
  • Feel free to make specific legacies to individuals. This can make your desires clear and is a very personal and deep meaning way to recognize those you care about.
  • Keep your will secure and let family members know where it is kept.
  • Make sure your will is properly signed and legally witnessed. Your attorney can help make sure this is done correctly.

Making a will doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, but it does take the desire to follow through. Finding a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer can get you started. If you have questions, concerns or would like assistance with your parents affairs or in setting up your own details, we invite you to contact us. We are experienced, caring, and will help ensure the wishes of you and your parents are fulfilled. We look forward to working with you.

Power of Attorney Versus Guardianship: Which Is Right For You?

Massachusettes Elder Law Lawyer

Massachusetts estate planning makes use of two similar legal arrangements. Each is backed up by separate authorities.

A power of attorney is useful if your loved one is somewhat incapacitated yet able to choose someone to handle their affairs. Your lawyer can write a contract assigning someone else legal authority over your loved one’s financial affairs. The power of attorney can be for a specific activity, such as the sale of a house or estate, or it can be a general power of attorney over all financial matters.

Guardianship gets its authority from a probate court. The court decides that an individual is incapable of handling their affairs and assigns decision-making authority to a guardian.

In order to get a Guardianship order, you’ll need evidence that your loved one is incompetent or incapable of handling their affairs. This is usually caused by mental illness, cognitive impairment, or loss of health. An elderly person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, may fall into that category.

Like a power of attorney, Guardianship may be obtained for specific areas of decision making. For example, you may be granted control over a loved one’s medical choices or given power to sell assets in the event of a sudden and rapid decline in health.To obtain Guardianship, you must first obtain medical documentation proving your loved one is unable to handle their affairs. Then you file a petition in probate court. Notice of Guardianship is sent out to heirs and closest living relatives. A hearing is scheduled to allow all interested parties a chance to object to the Guardianship order.For a power of attorney, you simply have your lawyer draft the papers and your loved one signs it.

Effective estate planning in Massachusetts can starts with proper legal documentation. You should seek legal counsel early on to ensure your elderly loved one’s assets are protected and managed well.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act, How Will It Affect You

The American Taxpayer Relief Act, How Will It Affect You

Contact your Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer for more information.

The year 2012 ended with many Americans wondering how their estate plans might change when the “Bush Era Tax Cuts” expired at midnight December 31. Fortunately a quick act of Congress, otherwise known as the The American Taxpayer Relief Act, was put into effect in the pre-dawn hours of January 1, 2013. While not all of the old laws remained in effect, as your Massachusetts elder lawyer will tell you, there was good news for seniors and their estate plans.

The The American Taxpayer Relief Act preserved the $5 million exemption on federal tax, meaning that if you have assets under $5 million, you won’t pay any taxes on that money. For individuals who have an estate of more than $5 million, the tax rate has increased from 35% to 40%. Although the tax rate increased, had the The American Taxpayer Relief Act not been signed, the exemption would stop at $1 million and the tax rate would be 55%. While the exemption is now a permanent law, the tax rate may increase in the future.
Another piece of good news from the The American Taxpayer Relief Act is that it remains portable, meaning that married couples can use the unused portion of their deceased spouse’s exemption. For example, if Tom and Mary have $9 million and Tom passes away, the money can be transfered tax-free to Mary since they are a married couple, and the exemption is not used. When Mary dies, the entire $9 million can be passed on to the couple’s heirs by using the $5 million exemption of both Tom and Mary. Of course this is not done automatically; your Massachusetts estate planning attorney will explain which tax forms need to be filled out upon passing so that the exemptions can be used.
Your Massachusetts elder lawyer can meet with you and help you better understand how the The American Taxpayer Relief Act applies to your individual situation, and advise you on the best way to proceed with your estate plans, so contact the Law Offices of Adam J. Tobin today.

Top 5 Ways to Reduce Estate Taxes in Massachusetts

estate_tax_planningEstate taxes can take quite a chunk out of one’s inheritance, but there are a few ways to reduce them without getting on the wrong side of the law:

1. Charitable Transfers

Not only is giving to charity good for society, it can really reduce the level of estate taxes. This is mainly because these transfers are considered a means of reducing the total estate size. An estate planning attorney may suggest that you provide a lifetime gift in order to also reduce income taxes.

2. The Q tip trust allows married couples to reduce their estate taxes. It helps the couple to take full advantage of all federal and state exemptions. After the first spouse dies, the estate is split into three separate parts. One part is placed in a credit shelter trust. The second piece is placed in a marital trust. And the final portion can be passed directly to the surviving spouse. Depending on the age of the spouse, a nursing home attorney may be used to help divert this money to needed care.

3. Special Needs Trust

As estate holders grower older, they are more likely to become disabled. With the help of an elder attorney, a disabled senior is eligible to put money into a special needs trust for use in paying medical bills. Not only does this allow those with special needs to pay for expensive treatment, it reduces the total level of taxation on the estate.

4. Family-Owned Business

If you own a family business, your estate planning lawyer will advise you to use that information when planning your estate. There is a federal deduction allowed to those working in family-owned businesses. However, a family business needs to meet a number of specific qualifications in order to be eligible for the tax deduction. First, the business needs to be located in the United States and the owner or owners must be United States citizens. Next, the decedent must have worked with the business for at least five years and must own at least half of it. The resulting interest deduction may not be worth founding a new family business for, but it can help out greatly if you already own one.

5. Actual Use

This type of estate savings is one of the most difficult to come by, and will definitely require the expertise of a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer. You may already have noticed that real estate is valued at its highest possible value. For some people, this results in land being valued higher than it actually should be. Special permits can be obtained to lower the value to its “actual use,” thus allowing estate owners to pay a far lower tax rate than would otherwise be possible.

For more information, please contact the Law Offices of Adam Tobin, today!

What is the Difference between Personal Property and Real Property

Let your Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer help you with real property.

Let your Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer help you with real property.

When it comes to estate planning, the most important step is to find an elder law attorney. It helps to have an impartial mind at work to make sure your assets are taken care of properly. A Massachusetts elder lawyer can help with wills, set up trusts and making sure that documents concerning transfer of property are done correctly. Most importantly, you’ll be able to ask questions throughout the process. One topic of discussion with your estate planning lawyer will be the difference between personal property and real property. Both are defined by Federal Law.

Real property is your land and any structures you have built on that land. This can include your home, commercial and/or agricultural buildings. As an example, if you own a farm, your real property includes the acreage of that farm and all buildings on that farm.

Personal property includes all other property, such as cars, boats, clothing and furniture as well as stocks, bonds, bank accounts and other personal items. Going back to the farm analogy, your barn would be your real property, but your tractors and other farm equipment would be considered personal property. Changing this to a city scenario, your house is real property, but all the furniture, appliances (except built-in) and your car are personal property.

It is important to understand this concept when planning your estate. When land is transferred, whether by sale or inheritance, by law all real property is included in that transfer. Unless there is a specific agreement, personal property is not included. Your estate planning lawyer will make sure that the details of your estate outline any such special agreements.

Planning an estate can be a complicated issue. Some of the forms, particularly to do with the transfer of property, are complex and there is no room for error. Protect your family’s future, and preserve your peace of mind by getting an elder lawyer to help with that planning. Contact the Law Offices of Adam Tobin.

Tips For Making Your Estate Planning a Smooth Process

estate-planning-paperworkIf you feel that the time has come for you, or an elderly loved one, to truly finalize your estate planning, you should contact an elder law attorney or an estate planning lawyer. When you go for your consultation with a Massachusetts living trust attorney, it is important to have in mind an idea of how you would like your estate planning to go. Below are some useful tips and guidelines that will help you as you work with your Massachusetts elder lawyer.

1. Consider including a simultaneous death clause, which will pass your estate onto your children in the event that your spouse dies shortly after you do.

2. In order to disinherit a child, you must spell that out in your will.

3. Remember to keep beneficiaries on your pension, life insurance and 401(k) current.

4. Be sure to designate an executor as well as a back up executor.

5. Store your personal and private information in one designated location in the home, preferably a fire proof safety deposit box. This box should include important personal and financial records, as well as computer passwords and PIN numbers.

6. Understand the impact of estate taxes and discuss with your estate planning attorney some options for reducing or avoiding estate taxes.

Remember that upon your death, your family and loved ones will be going through an emotionally taxing as well as stressful time, and you will help them considerably by having your affairs in order. It is important to recognize that with age comes certain responsibilities, and that the sooner you have your estate and other affairs in order, the better off you and your loved ones will be. Contact us with any questions you might have regarding Massachusetts and even federal law, and set up an appointment to begin the process of finalizing your affairs. You will feel at ease, and your family will be glad to know that an already taxing time will be much less stressful because of your willingness to work ahead.

The Dangers of a Do-it-Yourself Last Will

do-it-yourself-last-willA do-it-yourself will sounds like a simple and inexpensive way to let your loved ones know your wishes in the event of your death. Doing your own will at home, however, may end up leading to avoidable problems such as taxation and court battles. Do-it-yourself wills may seem like a good deal, but the money put out later could cost a lot more than using an estate planning lawyer to draw up your documents.

Do-it-yourself wills may prove to be invalid if you do not follow all state and federal laws. For instance, if you used a witness with an invested interest in your estate, the will may not hold up in court. It must also be proven that the signatures found on the will were properly witnessed. Also, if the original will can’t be produced, your wishes may not be followed. An estate planning lawyer typically stores your will in a fireproof location to ensure the original can be produced in court. An estate planner could also be called into court and testify about the validity about the claims included in the will.

The language used in the will must be perfect for claims to be valid. As an example, a court could interpret the wording wrong and subject your assets to costly estate taxes. Estate taxes can deplete the funds you leave behind for your beneficiaries. Instead, meet with an estate planning attorney to go over the language and inclusions of your documents to prevent will contests. Otherwise, your family may then be forced into a legal battle and be forced to pay an exorbitant amount of court and probate lawyer fees.

The biggest downfall of a do-it-yourself-will package? You don’t receive personalized advice from an estate planning attorney. The will software packages can provide general advice, but won’t be helpful if you have a more unique situation. Will software packages are not likely to provide you with guidelines on how to handle domestic partnerships, children from other marriages, disinherited children or special needs children. As an example, a stepfather who claims in his do-it-yourself will to leave all his assets to his children may find his stepchildren cut out of any inheritance money he meant for them. Also, living trusts and power of attorney are not usually properly handled in online will programs. In these cases, set up a consultation with a living trust attorney.

Do-it-yourself will software packages may require you to fix errors later on. Get your will right the first time by meeting with a licensed and professional estate planning attorney. Reduce family conflict by clearly stating your wishes and keeping the proper documentation stored with a lawyer. The Law offices of Adam Tobin is waiting to hear from you to create your legal and valid last will and testament.

Massachusetts Elder Law Planning for Long-term Care

longtermcare-elder-lawElder law attorneys in Massachusetts can help you solve issues regarding long-term care arrangements. If you are not proactive and speak to a Massachusetts elder lawyer early on, long-term care costs can deplete the estate of you or your loved ones. Although insurance may help assuage some of the financial burden, an estate planning attorney can present different options to you.

Long –Term Care Insurance Policies

As part of your estate planning, you may decide to take out an insurance policy in the case you or a loved one requires extensive medical care in a long-term facility. Policies available cover nursing home care and assisted living costs. Your elder lawyer can include policy terms in your living will along with give you advice on how to select the best policy. Since you may not need long-term insurance for years, choose an established insurance provider with a long track record of honoring claims. A Massachusetts elder attorney is likely to point out the importance of an inflation rider that allows the benefit amount to increase each year. If you need long-term care in 10 or 20 years, you want to make sure the coverage you have is sufficient.

Getting Your Wishes Granted

An elder attorney ensures that you or your loved one gets the care you want and deserve. In your living will, you could instruct your loved ones on the type of facility you want to be placed. A list of facilities and nursing care providers can also be listed in a long-term care plan. Your attorney also helps you find the funds from your estate to pay for long-term care if required. All monies are reviewed during your consultation to make the smartest financial decisions. Monies used for long-term care can come from medical insurance, reverse mortgages, long-term care insurance, veteran’s benefits, income and savings.

Documents You Need

Telling your children or grandchildren your wishes for long-term care is not enough. A MA elder care lawyer assures all documentation is filed and legally-binding. Your attorney can draw up your last will and testament, living will and power of attorney documents. In your documents, you could also designate a personal care coordinator. This person is in charge of making the decisions when you are medically incapacitated due to old age or disease.

Speak to a MA elder lawyer early on to avoid financial disaster. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if used for long-term care. Avoid losing your entire estate by planning for this possibility with an elder law attorney.

National Estate Planning Awareness Week (October 17 — 23)

living_trust_and_estate_planningThe National Association of Estate Planners and Councils estimates that more than 120,000,000 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 suspect that you or an aging family member may be one of those 120,000,000 people, participate in National Estate Planning Awareness Week and speak with a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer for more information about your own estate planning, or 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 NAEPC worked with Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and other members of the U.S. House of Representatives to establish October 17–23 as National Estate Planning Awareness Week.

Founded in 1962, the NAEPC is a non-profit business league with a strong commitment to promote financial and estate planning throughout the year, especially during National Estate Planning Awareness Week, when the organization sponsors seminars and webinars and provides educational materials to members of the estate planning profession, such as a Massachusetts living trust or estate attorneys, and to concerned individuals who want to learn more.

A Massachusetts elder law attorney can assist you with issues regarding financial wellness, such as budgeting, insurance, tax planning and investing, or work with you to develop a plan for charitable giving, organizing important documents or protecting the financial interests of your non-traditional 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 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, by using National Estate Planning Awareness Week to kick-start your estate planning, you will be providing emotional and financial security for your loved ones and peace of mind for yourself.

Have You Heard? New Protections Under the Elder Justice Act

Did you know that new legislation was signed into law last year that is designed to protect America’s senior citizens from abuse?  The Elder Justice Act, signed by President Obama in March of 2010, is a major step towards preventing abuse of the elderly.  This is the first time that such efforts have been officially coordinated at the federal level.

A Brief Overview of the Elder Justice Act

  • Elder Justice ActWithin the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, there will now be Elder Justice Coordinating Council (EJCC) which will oversee coordination of elder abuse issues throughout the government.
  • An Advisory Board to the EJCC, comprised of experts on elderly abuse and exploitation, will be formed to advice the council and compile a yearly report on elderly abuse with recommendations for governments at the federal, state, and local levels.
  • Allows for grants to long term care facilities to ensure that they have sufficient training and knowledge on elderly abuse issues and how to combat and prevent abuse of senior citizens.
  • Increased coordination among long term care facilities, the government, and elderly abuse officials at all levels.

In short, the act will help unify a system of preventing elderly abuse nationwide. This is a huge step in the fight to prevent the abuse and exploitation of America’s senior citizens.

If you or someone you know would like information on elder abuse, nursing home abuse, or estate planning, please contact the Law Offices of Adam J. Tobin today.