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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 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


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.




Is Now the Time for an Elder Law Attorney?

If you’re like most people, you never thought about hiring an elder law attorney before a situation made you wonder if you needed one. You might not know exactly what this type of lawyer can do to help as your parents or loved ones age. If you, yourself, are aging, you might be concerned that not having all of your end-of-life responsibilities accounted for will be a burden to your family. So the questions you might ask are, “Do I need an elder law attorney?” and “Is it too soon to seek professional guidance on these issues?”

What Does An Elder Law Attorney Do?

Understanding some of the many things that an elder law attorney can help you arrange will help you determine whether or not it’s time to seek guidance. This type of lawyer often works with estate planning and issues, such as power of attorney, for those who are unable to make their own medical and financial decisions. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to wait until the very end of life to hire one. In fact, it’s much better if you have all of your planning done in advance of any great medical catastrophe. Here are some of the things and elder attorney can help you arrange:

  • Estate Planning There may be a number of variables in play when determining how to best organize your estate. An elder attorney can counsel you on the specifics of the law, help determine the best trustees and power of attorney, and help create a last will so that family members won’t need to worry about transferring funds or property to the proper party.
  • Power of Attorney There are different types of power of attorney which can be essential for medical and financial decisions in the event you or a loved one can no longer communicate your wishes.
  • Living Wills An elder attorney can help draft a living will so that a person’s medical wishes are met in the event they can no longer answer for themselves.
  • Financial Planning An elder attorney can assist your family with financial planning to help your loved one live out their remaining days with peace of mind.

Do You Need an Elder Attorney?

If you’re asking the questions, it’s not too early to seek a consultation. Organizing your final affairs is often easy and affordable. Even if the planning you’ve put in place won’t be needed for many years, you can rest assured that your family will be taken care of in any event.

Contact us to arrange a free consultation with Attorney Adam J. Tobin,

What is the Difference between Personal Property and Real Property

When you’re setting up your estate for your children or other heirs to inherit, what you don’t know about property can cost the people you care about a lot of money. One of the key areas of confusion when looking at your assets is the difference between real property and personal property. Each of these categories should be handled differently to maximize the amount of value that’s transferred to your heirs at your death and to minimize the state and federal taxes on your estate. A good estate planning attorney can help you make these plans, but it’s a good idea to understand the basics.

What is real property and what is personal property?

Real property (aka realty or real estate) is anything that is attached to land. This includes homes, out buildings and commercial property as well as the land itself. Plants and trees are considered real property if they don’t require cultivation. (So, an apple orchard is real property, while a field of grain is not.)

Personal property, as used by an elder law attorney in Massachusetts, is everything that is NOT real property. This includes everything from your clothes to your furniture to your car to your bank account. This category is often further divided into chattels and intangibles. Chattels are physical things, such as your watch or your television set, whereas intangibles are paper assets, such as your bank account, your 401k account and any stocks or bonds you may own.

Each of these categories of property requires special handling to maximize the value of your estate. To learn more about planning your estate, contact one of our elder law attorneys today.


A Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney Can Explain Social Security

social-security-elder-lawBefore we dive deep into the exact things that you need to know about social security, it’s important for you to realize that acquiring services from a Massachusetts elder law attorney is often beneficial. If you or your loved one is living in a nursing home, or soon to be living in one, it’s also advantageous to acquire services from a Massachusetts nursing home attorney.

Know the age requirements

First of all, it’s important to know that social security age requirements differ from one person to the next, and they are based on the year you were born in. Reaching full retirement means that you must be at least 66 years of age, and for some people, the age requirement is 67 years of age.

You can start accessing social security at 62 years of age

If you choose to, you can start accessing your social security benefits several years before you reach the age of full retirement. As any professional Massachusetts elder law attorney will tell you, though, that in doing this, you will significantly reduce the overall amount of benefits that you can access. In fact, if you do this, your social security benefits may be reduced by as much as 25 percent.

You must have 40 credits to earn social security

You can earn up to four credits a year toward social security, meaning if you make enough money, after 10 years you could have enough credits (40) to retire; however, keep in mind that you can’t access your benefits until you are at least 62 years of age. As of the year 2014, to earn one credit, you must make at least $1,200 a year. You would have to make at least $4,800 a year to earn the full four credits.

If you have any further questions relating to social security, elder law or estate planning, please don’t hesitate to contact a professional Massachusetts attorney. For those of you who have questions relating to estate planning, make sure to contact a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer.

Determining if a Loved One Requires Home Care

It’s a difficult thought, wondering if your loved one might not be able to fully take care of them selves anymore. Countless Americans go through it all the time, dealing with the decision of whether or not they should put their loved one in a home. And even senior citizens are often reluctant to admit that they need help. It’s not easy for a person who’s lived a full life and provided for themselves and their families to come to terms with their predicament for fear of losing their independence or just out of embarrassment. Even those of us who are closest to loved ones have a hard time admitting the fact because we have seen them throughout our entire lives as able bodied and fully capable. But it is a fact of life. People age and the older they get, the harder life can be.

It’s important for us to be aware of the situation and keep a look out for the early signs that a loved one needs home care. Sometimes these signs aren’t easy to spot and can “suddenly sneak” up on you if you’re not paying attention. Here is a list of warning signs that you will want watch for if you concerned that your loved one may need home care:

  • Your loved one neglects personal grooming.
  • Your loved one ignores household tasks.
  • Your loved one doesn’t eat well.
  • Your loved one has fallen or has a fear of falling.
  • Your loved one has difficulty administering medications.
  • Your loved one shows signs of inactivity or isolation.
  • Your loved one neglects mail and has overdue bills.
  • Your loved one has been scammed or a victim of fraud.
  • Your loved one caring needs have become increasingly difficult.
  • Your loved one often gets confused or disoriented.

If one or more of the described symptoms above have been noticed or experienced by your loved one, a home care solution might be the right decision.

For more information and guidance on this difficult dilemma, contact your Massachusetts elder law lawyer at the offices of Adam Tobin. We would be glad to help you with the process and answer any questions you need.

Your Trustee Duties, Explained

If you have been appointed to the position of trustee of a trust, congratulations – clearly you are thought of as someone of great judgment, patience, and honesty. A trust (a legal arrangement in which one person, a trustee, holds the legal title of an entity for another, a beneficiary,) however, is a great responsibility. Here are a few duties of the position:

1. Fiduciary Responsibility – Your actions as trustee must be held to a very high standard.  As a fiduciary (someone who holds assets in trust for a beneficiary) you must pay acute attention to the investments and disbursements of the trust.

2. Knowledge of the Trust – You must follow the directions and rules of the trust emphatically. Make sure to read the trust in detail; it is also beneficial to reference the trust when any questions come to light.

3. Standards of Investment – The investments you execute must be prudent and logical; you cannot use money for risky investments. These investments must also take into account the interests not only of current beneficiaries, but future as well. You must consider the future financial needs of the beneficiary.

4.  Distribution – Often the most important role of a trustee is the ability to set limits of the use of trust assets. When making distributions to a beneficiary, you are responsible for evaluating his or her future needs before making a decision.

5. Taxing – You will be responsible for filing tax returns and paying any taxes. You must keep good records and can turn over this responsibility to an accountant to ensure this goes smoothly.

6. Accounting – You are in charge of monitoring all income to, distributions from, and expenditures by the trust. Usually an account of this information is given to beneficiaries annually. It is important to report on income and principal separately.

7. Delegation – All above functions can be delegated. You are allowed to hire financial advisors, accountants, and lawyers to ease the burden of responsibility. You cannot, however, delegate your responsibility to the trust; you still must communicate with those that you hire as well as make any discretionary decisions.

8. Delegation. While you cannot delegate your responsibility as trustee, you can delegate all of the functions described above. You can hire financial advisors to make investments, accountants to handle taxes and bookkeeping for the trust, and lawyers to advise you on questions of interpretation. With such professional assistance, the job of trustee need not be difficult. However, you still need to communicate with those you hire and make any discretionary decisions, such as when to make distributions of principal from the trust to one or more beneficiaries.

Acting as a trustee is an opportunity to enhance the lives of the trust’s beneficiaries, and also a great responsibility. You don’t have to do it alone! Get professional advice to make sure you are correctly fulfilling your role. Adam Tobin is an experienced living trust attorney and can help you carry out these responsibilities. Contact him today for a free consultation.

What Are the Levels of Nursing Home Requirements for Staff?

“The expectations of nursing homes are to provide sufficient staff and services to attain or maintain the highest possible level of physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident.”

An elder law attorney understands the issues with nursing homes today, both legally and personally. As a general rule, nursing homes are reputably understaffed. It’s no surprise that studies have reflected that the more staff available is equivalent to better care for nursing home inhabitants, but with the work intensive hours that correspond with this high-demand job often lead to overworked individuals and a high turnover rate. So, if you are in the process of choosing a nursing home for your loved one, a critical factor in your decision making should be the patient-staff ratio – but what are the legal ratio requirements?

Medicaid and Medicare-certified nursing homes are required by Federal law to have a nursing-homeregistered nurse on duty at least 8 hours / week, 7 days / week: and a licensed nurse should be on duty the remaining time. But nurse’s aides do not have a minimum staffing requirement, and these individuals in fact provide most daily care. These aides are trained for a minimum of 75 hours.

In order to improve this quality of care, the amount of nurse time for each patient must be adjusted. Currently, if a nursing home in fact meets the federal nurse staffing requirements as stated above, a resident receives only 20 minutes of allotted nurse time per day. The 2000 report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, illustrates that these same residents need three to four hours of staff time per day: this further breaks down to an hour of licensed nurse time, and two hours of nursing assistant time, optimally three.

Appropriate allocated time for nursing hours varies from state to state. If you have a loved one currently in a nursing home, know your rights. A nursing home attorney understands the requirements the law demands, and will provide you with valuable information and advice in regards to your legal situation. Adam Tobin specializes as a Massachusetts nursing home lawyer, so contact him today to see how he can help you.

Source article: Read more here.

Health Concerns for the Elderly, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Nursing Homes.

Information on nursing home elder care.Elder law deals with the legal, financial, and health needs of senior citizens.  The country’s average age is advancing all the time, and now even baby-boomers are dealing with health issues and legal concerns they had not anticipated. In addition to estate planning, elder law attorneys also help with preparing for long-term healthcare needs, applying for government programs, addressing financial fraud, combating physical abuse, and establishing guardianships and conservatorships.

When nursing home care is needed, Medicare is of only marginal
assistance.  Medicare covers the first 20 days and a portion of the next 80 days of care in a nursing home as long as one is receiving treatment and improving.  Long-term healthcare also known as custodial care is not covered by Medicare.  The only government program that will pay for long-term care is Medicaid.  Medicaid is designed to help people with limited assets and income. Medicaid, also known as MassHealth in Massachusetts, will cover the aforementioned long-term care costs.

Unless an individual is impoverished or has adequately planned for his or her future healthcare needs, a nursing home stay or extended medical treatment can completely deplete assets accumulated over a lifetime.  To avoid this, a skillfully crafted plan can redistribute an elderly person’s assets in order to reduce the assets below the amount required to qualify for Medicaid.  This strategy may allow an elderly person to distribute his or her assets to children or other family members, outright or in trust, so that the same elderly person may not be responsible for paying healthcare expenses or nursing home costs.

As an estate planning and elder law attorney, I can work with you to plan ahead for residential care needs while minimizing the financial impact on your estate. Visit our Medicaid Planning section for more information.

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