Category Archives: Estate Planning

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.

baby boomers

 

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.

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

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

 

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!

MEDCottage Offers New Elder Housing Option

medcottage

If you’re one of the more than 34 million Americans who’ve been caring for aging adults, you know how difficult this family dynamic can be. There are issues you might need a living trust attorney or elder law attorney to help you navigate, such as your parents’ financial health. You may also find yourself in a situation where your parent is independent but can no longer live completely independently.

If you’re not comfortable with the option of a nursing home but don’t have the room to move parents into your own home, this can be an exceptionally stressful situation. Even if they live nearby, aging relatives may not be able to manage on their own, especially if they are coping with medical conditions. One newer solution is the MEDCottage, sometimes referred to as the Granny Pod.

What is a MEDCottage?

The MEDCottage is today’s answer to the guest house or in-law apartment of the past. In many homes generations ago, families created an in-law apartment for older parents. Or, if they had enough property, they might have had a guest house that elder family members lived in. Many families today might not have those options, but a MEDCottage can offer a great solution.

Also known as a Granny Pod, a MEDCottage is a prefabricated small house that you can install on your own property. The MEDCottage can be decorated to suit the elder who will reside there and it offers instant access to your loved one while still offering privacy to both the elderly relative and the family in the main home. Self-described as “an affordable alternative to nursing homes,” a MEDCottage is designed to be a hospital room combined with a living area complete with a kitchenette.

Benefits to the MEDCottage

  • Proximity to Elderly Relative. Because the Granny Pod can be installed right on your property, you’re never in a situation where your relative is too far away to visit or check in on.
  • Medically Equipped. These structures are equipped with the safety and medical features to meet your loved one’s needs.
  • Maintained Independence. For relatives who can no longer live completely on their own but who value their privacy, the Granny Pod can provide the best alternative to a nursing home or moving into an adult child’s home.

If you’re currently struggling with ways to best meet your elderly parent’s needs without relying on a care facility, a MEDCottage might be worth investigating as a housing option.

Three Reasons to Have a Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy is a legal document that gives another person the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to make or state your own decisions and wishes. It allows medical professionals to follow the instructions of a third party even if the law would not otherwise allow it.

Sometimes a health care proxy is called a durable medical power of attorney. It is not the same document as a power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person authority to manage your financial affairs.

We advise including both documents in your estate plan. Let’s take a look at the reasons why you should have a health care proxy.

Ease the Burden for Family or Friends

In advance of a serious injury or illness, you may assume that your family or friends understand your wishes about medical treatment, life support, feeding tubes, and other major procedures. In many instances, however, a person’s wishes may not be known, putting loved ones in the often difficult position of making such decisions for you—or having debates about what you would want. Further, even if they do understand your wishes, your treating doctors may not legally be allowed to follow their instructions. Setting up a health care proxy can eliminate these concerns.

 Give Legal Authority

Spouses or next of kin can generally make medical decisions without a health care proxy, but a more distant family member, friend, or unmarried partner wouldn’t be able to. Under the law, the person named in your health care proxy becomes the medical agent for you, the principal.

Be Prepared in Case of an Emergency

A health care proxy can cover what should happen in a medical crisis such as a sudden illness, car accident, or incapacitating injury. Surgery or other procedures that require anesthesia carry an element of risk. Having a health care proxy in place gives your loved ones a plan to follow in case decisions have to be made in case of an emergency.

Health care proxies are also essential legal documents for the elderly or those suffering long-term illnesses who may be losing mental capacity.

An elder law attorney can help you set up a health care proxy and make it part of your estate planning documents. Contact us today to get started.

5 Best Practices for Organizing Legal Documents
for an Elder

Taking care of an elder often begins with a crisis. Perhaps a stroke leaves an elder family member unable to speak or an injury leaves her unable to provide basic self-care. Unexpectedly, you are responsible for making decisions on your loved one’s behalf and you must do so in a hurry. The sudden responsibility may cause a great deal of anxiety and worry on top of the natural concern for someone close to you.

legal documentsFor this reason, it’s essential that you know where to access important legal documents before such a crisis should occur. Organize documents in advance so that when you do need them, you can find them quickly. Here are our best practices for organizing legal documents for an elder family member. Follow them and you’ll be helping your elder loved one as well as every member of the family.

1. Find the Documents

Discovering where documents are placed is often much easier said than done. If possible, ask your parent or another family where documents are stored. If this isn’t feasible, you’ll need to search for them yourself. Common locations include a safety deposit box, filing cabinet, and freezer. Create a checklist of important paperwork needed and either create a written record of where it is located or, preferably, place all of the paperwork in one location. These documents may include:

  • Legal and health care power of attorney
  • Wills
  • Living wills
  • End-of-life directives, such as Do Not Resuscitate orders
  • Tax returns
  • Savings bonds, stock certificates, and brokerage accounts
  • Military records
  • Birth certificates
  • Trusts
  • Divorce papers
  • Marriage certificates
  • Insurance paperwork

2. Determine a Storage Method

There are several effective ways to store important documents. Carefully consider which would allow you the quickest access to necessary papers while also ensuring your family member’s privacy and safety. Some suggestions include:

Safety deposit box

The only times someone can look at the items inside is during banking hours and access is limited to specific people. However, it becomes problematic if you become incapacitated or leave the area due to vacation.

Home safe

This is a good in-between option; it is extremely convenient and accessible, yet lacks the protection of an in-bank box. Be sure to either bolt down the safe or hide it extremely well. A key should be given to anyone who needs access.

Filing cabinet

While a filing cabinet is easily accessible in an emergency, it lacks the security of other options.

Online document storage

Online storage allows access from any computer with a user id and password. It is very secure and convenient.

3. Eliminate the Unnecessary

Set aside time annually to reduce the document load. Shred, throw away, or delete things that have become untimely.

4. Organize Yourself

Caring for someone else requires you to be organized yourself. The more organized you are, the easier it is to help. Create an online calendar that provides text alerts and emails for reoccurring situations, such as prescription refills, medical appointments, and also one-time events. You can also set most calendars up to remind others, including the person you’re helping.

5. File and Sort According to Your Style

Whether you prefer files to be color-coded, alphabetical, or organized according to topic, be sure to file according to your distinct style. It may be tempting to continue the system that someone else implemented, but that will likely hinder the process of retrieving and safely storing documents.

If you find yourself in the position of caring for an elder, or would like more information about legal services and requirements, please contact us for assistance. For those who have an aging loved one, it’s very common to visit a Massachusetts elder law attorney to establish power of attorney. For help doing so, we invite you to a free consultation.

Estate Planning Resource Roundup

According to the American Bar Association, 55 percent of Americans die without a will or estate planning documents in place. Estate planning can be a daunting task, but a qualified estate planning attorney can break down the process into doable steps for you and your family. Whether you’re a parent with young children, newly married and yet to start a family, or a senior with adult children, the time to begin the process of estate planning is now.

resource roundup

Here’s a roundup of some resources that will help you get started. We’re standing by to help you navigate and complete this process. Today is a great day to contact us and we’ll work with you every step of the way.

Getting Your Affairs in Order: Tips to Make Your Estate Planning a Smooth Process

What Is the Difference between Personal Property and Real Property?

The Dangers of a Do-It-Yourself Will

American Bar Association Estate Planning Overview

Kiplinger Estate Planning Special Report