Category Archives: Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney

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.

Top 5 Reasons to Hire an Elder Law Attorney

What’s the difference between an attorney and an elder law attorney? An elder law attorney can help seniors and their family members plan wills, living trusts and estates, and handle other legal matters. General practice attorneys can handle these matters, too. But there are distinct differences in working with an attorney who has specialized training, knowledge, and expertise in elder law issues. These differences present significant advantages when you choose to work with an elder law attorney. These top 5 reasons to hire an elder law attorney are important to consider as you plan for future needs.

1. Elder attorneys specialize in handling legal matters for senior citizens. While general practice attorneys can also provide these services, they do not focus on a specific age group or population. Hiring an elder attorney means that seniors and their loved ones receive legal assistance that focuses on their particular needs.

2. Seniors often have specific needs that differ from other age groups or physical or mental conditions that can cause difficulties or complexities. Elder attorneys have critical skills and experience to ensure that these factors are taken into consideration in order to provide seniors and their loved ones with the legal help they need. These attorneys can determine a client’s competency in making decisions based on physical or mental conditions, such as dementia or a terminal illness.

3. An elder attorney is familiar with misconceptions about the elderly and their ability to make important decisions. These attorneys are careful to dismiss these misconceptions in order to treat senior clients with respect and avoid making assumptions about their competence. This helps ensure that seniors’ wishes are respected in regards to their will, living trust or estate.

4. An elder attorney for estate planning or other legal services does more than handle these matters. Attorneys who practice elder law are knowledgeable about other key issues that seniors deal with, such as long-term care, housing issues, and finances. These issues can have an effect on legal matters, making it important for them to be factored into legal decisions. Elder lawyers ensure that legal services take these factors into account.

5. Elder law attorneys can usually provide additional assistance to seniors and their loved ones by recommending other types of elder care professionals that might be needed, such as psychologists or social workers. An estate planning attorney or living trust attorney who specializes in working with senior clients typically interacts with other elder care professionals while taking care of legal matters.

Seniors and their loved ones should note that elder law covers a wide range of legal services, including estates planning, probate administration, elder abuse, Medicaid, retirement issues, and conservatorships. It is important to find an elder attorney who offers the specific legal services needed. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Finding the best estate planning lawyer in Massachusetts

Searching for best estate planning attorneys in Massachusetts.If demography is destiny, then estate planning lawyers will be very busy in the decades ahead.

That’s because the American public is skewing older, so the need for competent estate planning figures to be greater than ever. Given the high stakes involved, it’s important to choose the right attorney. After all, choosing the wrong one may lead to missed opportunities or could even put your family’s future security at risk. You don’t want to place your financial legacy in the hands of someone who doesn’t have your full confidence.

So what’s the best process for finding the right estate planning lawyer? First, you should look for experience. Find an attorney who focuses on estate planning or makes it a significant portion of the practice. This way you ensure you’re represented by someone who has comprehensive knowledge of both estate law and related areas that may affect your estate.

Along with experience, it’s important to find someone local. Massachusetts residents are typically best served by firms that know the landscape. There’s no substitute for local relationships. Additionally, an attorney with a local office should be more responsive, if for no other reason than proximity.

A third factor is reputation. It’s a good idea to make inquiries about prospective candidates. Receiving positive feedback can help make you comfortable with your decision, and in the rare case you hear something negative, those inquiries can prompt you to dig deeper and avoid a potential mistake.

Once you’re ready to hire, there are a variety of resources to tap. These include bar associations, attorney directories and — perhaps best of all — references from friends, family or attorneys who practice in a different area.

With some diligent research you can connect with the right estate lawyer. Doing so will give you peace of mind, knowing that you’ve done your part to secure your family’s financial future.

Financial Planning when Dealing with Dementia

Learn more about Massachusetts estate planning when dealing with dementia.Dementia is a heart-breaking mental condition that only worsens over time. When doctors diagnose dementia, it is important to start planning for the financial complications that may arise. Creating a will and setting up a power of attorney is essential for the future. Financial planning must consider all of the possible challenges that may arise, including the possibility that loved ones will need to make hard medical decisions.

Setting up a Will

In many cases, the first consideration after a diagnosis of dementia is the will and power of attorney. Working with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney can help simplify the process of setting up a will and getting legal affairs in order before the medical condition makes it impossible to personally develop a plan.

A Massachusetts estate planning lawyer can offer valuable legal advice about the best ways to prevent belongings from going into probate. It is also helpful to set up power of attorney in case it is not possible to make medical or financial decisions in the future. The attorney will help develop a plan based on personal concerns and goals.

Preparing for Medical Costs

Medical costs will increase as dementia develops. Depending on the situation and the progress of the disease, it may be necessary to go into a nursing home or a long-term care facility. While long-term care insurance can help alleviate some of the burden of the cost, it may not provide enough funds. After determining how the insurance coverage works, create a financial plan based on the remaining expenses.

Compare the Options for Long-Term Care

The cost of long-term care may vary based on the facility that is providing the service and the amount of care that is provided. Look into several options and discuss the costs with loved ones, an attorney and a medical professional.

Taking measures to compare the health-care options, obtain insurance coverage and set up a will before the disease can worsen will make the financial complications easier to manage. Financial planning must factor in long-term care, insurance coverage and the current financial situation before it is possible to make adjustments to ensure the future is secure.

What can a Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney Do for You?

A Massachusetts estate planning attorney that is knowledgeable in elder law can assist in all legal and financial issues pertaining to your parents’ needs.

The Sandwich Generation

Millions of Americans are facing an unprecedented situation in having to deal with the needs of their parents, their children and their own retirement all at the same time. The increased life expectancy of the current senior population has created what many demographers and planners refer to as the “sandwich generation.”

A number of new laws and regulations have come into effect over the past few decades in recognition of these new demographics. Many of these laws pertain to the care of those over 65 years of age and create the special area of legal practice called elder law.

Working with a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer who is knowledgeable in elder law is an important resource to adequately deal with your parent’s financial, legal and medical needs. There are significant issues that require attention to ensure that the most effective and efficient approaches to dealing with each of these key areas are utilized. The failure to exercise the proper diligence can cost tens of thousands of dollars and create serious legal consequences.

Maintaining a Difficult Balancing Act

Those children that find themselves caring for elderly parents often face a number of difficult decisions in a variety of areas. These individuals are called on to balance their love and concern with practical issues that have serious consequences. Just a few examples of these include;

  • If a parent can no longer drive safely, who takes the initiative in taking away the car keys? What are the legal liabilities if the parent is your responsibility and you fail to do so?
  • What financial decisions are best if it comes to the time to place a parent in a long-term care facility? What advance planning is essential?
  • When and how should legal guardianship of the parent(s) be sought?

A qualified and experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorney fully understands the impact of elder law on these areas of concern. They will be able to provide important information and guidance on these and many other issues, and with those insights, you will be well-prepared to face these challenges.

The need to know basics about Powers of Attorneys

What you need to know about Power of AttorneysFor those that have an aging loved one, it’s very common to visit a Massachusetts elder law attorney to establish power of attorney, or POA. Simply put, power of attorney gives someone legal permission to act on someone else’s behalf. This comes in especially handy for writing checks, signing legal documents, and handling any other legal matters when a loved one is either unfit or unable to do so. Essentially, it’s one loved one signing over his/her legal rights to another person in the event that they’re not able to make such decisions for themselves. It can be an emotional time, realizing that a loved one is aging and that something like a POA needs to be done, but it’s a necessary evil.

Acquiring Massachusetts power of attorney is simple and fast, typically only taking a matter of minutes with a Massachusetts elder lawyer to complete.

Here’s a look at the two most common types of POAs:

  • Regular POAs: This POA is applicable only to financial and commercial situations – powers are ceased in the event of incompetency and/or incapacitation.
  • Durable POAs: Unlike regular POAs, durable POAs are applicable in the cases of incompetency and/or incapacitation. This is most applicable to situations where loved ones are residing in nursing homes or hospice and time is running out.

Here’s a look at what rights both of the aforementioned POAs allow:

  • Buying and/or selling of real estate property.
  • Filing of tax returns
  • Banking
  • The purchase of life insurance
  • Employment of help
  • Disclaiming interest

It’s recommended that everyone look into establishing a power of attorney, as it can save a lot of time and frustration in the long run by entrusting someone to look over assets and finances in the event that an aging relative is not able to.

For more information on establishing power of attorney, contact us today.

Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney: Finding An Affordable Solution

Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney: Finding An Affordable Solution With a large population of Baby Boomers in the midst of aging and a generation of working adults short on the space and time required to take care of elderly parents, many adult children are on the hunt for a reasonable solution to the ever-present issue of affordable senior housing. This problem becomes all the more important for seniors with significant needs due to illness or disability — circumstances may force such individuals to take up residence in nursing homes.

When it comes to ironing out issues related to nursing home residency, adult children and their senior parents may find themselves seeking the assistance of a Massachusetts nursing home attorney. A qualified Massachusetts nursing home lawyer will understand the many complexities of current federal and state legislation while providing much-needed expertise related to managing a senior’s estate in a way that will allow for the investment in nursing home care. Although a nursing home can be expensive, assistance from a Massachusetts elder law attorney can ensure that a given senior’s assets are utilized to their maximum potential, thus making the resources of an estate last as long as extra care is necessary. After all, given the many questions related to finances and housing options for seniors, it only makes sense to have an expert on hand who is willing to clear up confusion and serve as an advocate when necessary.

How a Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney can help you with Healthcare

Learn more about Massachusetts Elder Law and Health Care.In addition to helping with estate planning, financial issues and housing options, a Massachusetts elder attorney can help you make informed healthcare choices for your future. Your attorney can make sure that you have access to affordable healthcare and that you know how the latest healthcare legislation will affect your current and future plans.

Thanks to changes in healthcare on both state and federal levels, the field of medicine is constantly changing, making it difficult for the average person to keep up with the latest policies. These policies affect private health insurance programs, Medicaid, Medicare and veterans’ benefits, making it essential that you have a trusted person who can give you the correct information that you need to know. While the future of the healthcare system is uncertain, like potential spending cuts in government programs that many seniors rely upon, it’s important to have someone on your side to guide you through the maze of regulations.

Although you can’t predict the future, your Massachusetts estate planning attorney can help you make plans for the future so that your wishes are met every step of the way. They can help you decide on potential options such as whether you’d prefer in-home care by private caregivers or if living in a residential facility is better for your needs.

Your elder lawyer can also help you make important decisions related to your healthcare, and draw up the proper documents such as a power of attorney and advance directives, to ensure that you’re well taken care of. Making these decisions now allows your loved ones to focus on spending quality time with you, and without heavy burdens weighing on their minds.

For assistance with your estate planning, or to find out how a Massachusetts elder attorney can help you, contact us today!

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.