Category Archives: Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer

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.

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.

Helping Aging Parents Make the Move

For seniors, relocating to a retirement community or assisted living residence can open the door to increased stress and high emotions. This step often means giving up some part of their independence and certainly means leaving familiar surroundings behind. How can adult children help their parents make the transition? Like an experienced guide on a road you’ve never traveled before, an elder law attorney can help families navigate the process.

When it’s no longer possible for aging parents to live independently, a whole host of issues need to be settled with their best interests in mind. Your parents’ home often represents a large portion of their assets. Other financial considerations may include hiring a living trust attorney or finalizing arrangements for parents’ ongoing budgetary needs through the remainder of their lives. There will be decisions to make based on health needs. Aging parents may be moving to a different town or state and or downsizing to a smaller residence.

Steps to Take to Make Your Parents’ Move Easier

Every situation is different, but there are some solid, practical steps that can make the journey easier for the entire family.

Working with an elder law attorney. An attorney who specializes in elder law can aid your parents in making a wide variety of decisions to better meet their needs for the remainder of their lives. Decisions can be made about choosing beneficiaries, making end-of life arrangements, and protecting assets so that the elderly family member can comfortably live on their budget. Other decisions might involve appointing family members to make health and financial decisions.

Deciding to sell or keeping property. In many cases, seniors decide to sell the property so that the money can be used to help with their living costs. In other cases, they might wish to keep the property in the family. An elder law attorney can help families make such estate-planning decisions.

Downsizing possessions. A good way to help elders downsize is to start as early as possible, taking time to go room by room and making sure to defer to their decisions. For many families, this step will need a great deal of patience and time.

Choosing a new home. Your parents’ new home may be chosen for a number of reasons, including health considerations. Involve elders in making a list of criteria that covers what they want and need. Then help them identify and evaluate available options. It’s important that they’re comfortable with the new living situation, which may mean multiple visits as part of the decision-making process.

Easing the stress of moving day. Moving can be stressful for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for people who have lived in their home for decades. The number-one priority should be to make the process as easy and considerate as possible for your aging parents. Make sure as much of the packing and organizing is handled in advance. Hire movers or enlist willing family members to help. Make certain someone spends time with elderly loved ones so that they have a support system if they need one.

It’s important that you realize that this change in lifestyle can be stressful for everyone. While there are many decisions to be made, an elder law attorney can help with the legal and financial aspects so that family members can concentrate on providing the more important emotional support that seniors deserve and need.

Is it time for your parents to downsize into a smaller home or move into a senior living community? Contact us today for more information about how we can help.

Planning for Long-Distance Caregiving

As the Baby Boomer generation enters their twilight years, a large percentage of their children find themselves sandwiched between responsibilities for their own family and their aging parents. For caregivers who live far from their loved one, this dynamic proves particularly difficult. It’s estimated that there are between 5 and 7 million long-distance caregivers (LDCs) in the United States. An elder law attorney can advise both the elderly parent and the LDC about best practices for long-distance care and estate planning.

Often adult children don’t realize that their aging parent needs care or support until some kind of health crisis occurs. Long distances can compound this situation. When elderly parents live more than an hour away, problems may not be noticed immediately. Advance planning is essential. Ideally, the entire family should discuss responsibilities and make decisions in advance, including who will take the lead in care giving and where responsibilities lie.

In this planning stage, family members can determine the best options for care, including moving the parent closer to the caregiver or enlisting the help of in-home care services in the aging parent’s location. Family members should also make decisions about individual LDC roles. Siblings may decide to split responsibilities. One sibling may be better with hiring and monitoring caregivers, while another may choose to coordinate legal planning.

Here are some things to keep in mind as aging parents and long-distance caregivers plan ahead:

  • Respecting the Aging Parent’s Wishes. Many aging parents may need help but want to remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible. It’s imperative that their wishes are taken into consideration with regard to where and how they live.
  • Contacting an Elder Attorney. An elder attorney should be consulted to help with estate planning and to guide the family in legal decisions. It’s important that issues such as the power of attorney for health directives be decided while the parent is able to do so. An elder law attorney can also make sure that the elderly person’s property and financial means are protected, while still providing for their daily needs.
  • Organizing Affairs. It’s important to know where all of the pertinent paperwork is located.
  • Learning About Resources in the Area. Long-distance caregivers should do research to learn about the resources in their elderly relative’s area to find the best in-home care and other services that will benefit them.

Becoming the caregiver for an elderly parent is challenging. In cases where the caregiver lives a significant distance from the parent, the situation can be even more of a challenge. An elder law attorney is an essential element in a long-distance caregiving plan. Contact us today for more information about how we can help you put together a long-distance caregiving plan for your loved one.


Social Security Increases in 2015

As your trusted Massachusetts elder law attorney’s office, we have some great news! At the beginning of the year, Social Security benefits rose for over 60 million Americans. The monthly Social Security and Supplemental Income increased 1.7%, slightly higher than the 1.5% increase in 2014.

These increases were made as a Cost of Living Adjustment, and are determined by the rate of inflation over the past year. The increase is supposed to make up for the rising costs of goods and services.

On average, this amounts to about $22 per month for the average American.

What Does This Change?

Ultimately, not much will change. The small increase will provide a small amount of financial relief, but not enough to make a large difference. Retirees who were previously struggling will not find the increase to provide much relief. Potential retirees still working to sort their finances won’t be pushed into retirement by this small increase.

What Other Changes Are There?

Several other changes were made this year to social security payments:

  • Higher maximum taxable earnings.

  • Larger earning limits.

  • Higher maximum benefits.

  • Statements are being automatically sent via the mail again (they were suspended in 2011 for cost-cutting measures).

What Steps Do I Need to Take?

The benefit will be received automatically. You don’t need to take any steps, and your loved ones should be receiving the increased rate for 2015 already.

However, 2015 is the perfect time to meet with your local Massachusetts estate planning lawyer to begin planning your financial future. A skilled Massachusetts nursing home attorney will be able to sort out you or your loved one’s estate and will.

With your estate worth more than ever, it’s the perfect time to focus on the future!


Seven Tips for Planning for Retirement: Insights from a Massachusetts Elder Attorney

Now is the right time to start saving for retirement and preparing your estate. Whether you’re a teenager just starting your first job or a seasoned employee with decades of work experience under your belt, the funds you set aside now will make a huge difference in how comfortable you are during your golden years. And it will save your family endless hours of stress and grief if you also plan your will now.

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

  1. Know how much you will need. 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. If you work for someone else, 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. 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. Budget how much you’ll need between now and retirement to reach your savings goal, and 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 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. 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 Internet sites that explain how these techniques work.
  7. Take some time to imagine all the things you would like to do when you’re retired. Imagine yourself traveling the country in an RV, sightseeing 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 handy tips, you’ll find yourself well on your way to meeting your long-term financial goals. Good luck and happy saving!

Elder Law Terminology 101

elder-law-terminologyThere are many terms used in Elder Law that may be confusing to those who are planning for their future, or those who are dealing with the wishes of a loved one. The following are some commonly used terms in estate planning and Elder Law.

Advance Directive

An advance directive is a document that allows a person to fully state their wishes for their medical treatment in the event that they become incapacitated and unable to communicate these wishes at a later date.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document in which a person gives permission for another to act on their behalf. There are several types of powers of attorney. A general power of attorney allows the person to do anything the grantor could do. A special power of attorney gives the person the ability to do certain things, such as pay bills, make medical decisions or sell property.


Probate refers to the process of validating a will and disposing of assets as prescribed in the will. Most locations have special probate courts that are dedicated to this process.


The executor of an estate is a person that is granted power over all assets in the estate. The executor must act as the deceased person directed in the terms of their will.


A trust allows for assets to be distributed to beneficiaries at a specific time or for a specific purpose. This allows a person to have more control over the distribution of their assets to their beneficiaries. There are many types of trusts; each trust has its own benefits and drawbacks.

For more information on these terms, or for answers to your questions about Elder Law and Estate Planning, contact our offices today. We are your Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer,Massachusetts Nursing Home Attorney and Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney. We can answer all of your questions and help you plan for the future, so you don’t have to worry about the division of your assets or those of a loved one.

Housing Options for Senior Citizens

Looking for the right nursing home.Seniors and their adult children are often perplexed about housing options. This is normal, as most adults–even seniors–spend little time building experience or spend much time considering housing options outside of the usual (homeownership, apartments or condos).

Senior Citizen Housing Option Considerations

  • Physical or medical issues. Depending on seniors’ fitness, lack of chronic disease or injury, they should consider staying in their home, finding an apartment that’s easier to maintain or evaluate assisted living residences.
  • Maintaining a home. As every homeowner, young or “mature” knows, even brand new homes need maintenance. Whether it’s a manicured lawn, flowers and plantings, removing snow in winter, and housework for all living areas, it must be done regularly. Seniors’ ability to perform maintenance influences their housing options.
  • Social/emotional issues. As seniors’ friends move or pass away, their social networks often suffer. Housing options should include consideration of social networking opportunities and emotional support.
  • Financial position. Seniors wanting to stay in their homes may need modifications, such as ramps or special bathrooms, that can be costly. These changes may or may not be less costly than finding apartments customized for seniors.

Seniors and their adult children should consult a Massachusetts elder law attorney for money-saving advice on the best housing options for older people. Residents also should consider a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer, who may be the same person, to ensure the seniors’ assets are properly protected.

As seniors become elderly, a Massachusetts nursing home attorney can be of great help finding and financing this option when seniors need it. Nursing home quality, regulations and costs can be complex issues.

Proper planning is the key requirement in evaluating the best housing options for seniors. Planning ahead and soliciting valuable advice before housing decisions are necessary will give you the knowledge to make the right choice.

Understanding the Mediation Process in Elder Care Law

The ultimate goal of any mediation process for elder care law, a Massachusetts elder law attorney will tell you, is to ensure the needs and desires of the individual are met above anyone else’s desires. This is a private, less expensive method for preserving the overall desires of the individual while ensuring legal standards are met as well.

The process involves bringing together those who need to make decisions about their property and estate and want to do so in a legally binding manner. This area of law can focus on a range of topics, not just estate planning and wills, but also in Medicaid benefits, retirement benefits, planning for end of life, and working through issues related to disability. For families, including the children of the aged individual, taking steps to get into this process is often a very good decision. Not only does it reduce worry and risk, but it also helps the family to know that the loved one’s wishes are being met.

There is no law that states when elder care needs must be met, nor when mediation is necessary. However, there is little reason to put off such an event. Coming together with a trusted attorney is the best way to safeguard your needs. You can meet with a Massachusetts nursing home attorney to discuss your needs and questions long before you make decisions, too. This gives you the best opportunity to learn about your options.

How Does Mediation Work?

In short, you and your family come in to meet with an attorney who discusses with you the rules of the state as well as your rights. You learn about the factors that affect you, including your estate planning concerns, estate, and wills. Then, you make decisions to protect your desires.

There is no reason not to meet with a Massachusetts elder law attorney to discuss your situation and needs. We can help you to get questions answered while also guiding you in the legal process.

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.