Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Scoop on DIY Wills

One of the hardest times to put your pen to paper is when you are trying to write your will.  It is one of the most important financial planning documents, and yet an alarming percentage of the population still does not have one.  It is difficult to acknowledge mortality and it can be stressful to spend money on estate planning.  “I’ll do it later” has been the most popular attitudes about wills for centuries.  Now, however, there is a new attitude forming: “I’ll do it myself.”  Recently, there has been a crop of do-it-yourself software and books encouraging consumers to set up their wills by themselves.  These fill in the blank sort of documents seem fail proof at first, but they breed mistakes due to the fact that they cannot lend themselves to changing based on the family’s needs.  One size does not fit all when it comes to determining your estate. By choosing to work with an estate lawyer, you can ensure that your money won’t be wasted on cleaning up all the mistakes in your DIY will in probate court.

Considering trying to draw up your will without an estate planning attorney is akin to yanking out a sore tooth by yourself to save money on a dentist appointment.  It may save you money in the short term, but if something goes wrong you’ll have to spend even more money at the dentist to get it corrected.  So many things can go wrong when it comes to drawing up a will.  An estate planning lawyer knows all of the formalities involved in signing and witnessing a valid will.  They will ask the tough questions and make sure not to cut the important corners.

If you are considering a DIY will, or if you have any questions about the process, please contact us and arrange a free consultation with Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney Adam Tobin.

8 Reasons to Choose a Living Trust

Deciding on whether a will or a living trust is the right choice for you can be tricky. Often it comes down to whether the amount of money saved from avoiding probate is worth the cost and the effort spent on a living trust. There are advantages to both estate planning tools, and there is no standard answer to which is a better choice. Your estate plan should be chosen in a way that best benefits you and your family. We have compiled eight reasons to consider contacting a living trust attorney to construct your own living trust.

1. Living trusts take effect while you are alive. A living trust allows you to plan your estate while you are alive whereas a will takes effect only after you pass. This allows for more detailed and thoughtful dispersion of your belongings that can be tweaked over time as you see fit.

2. Living trusts hold up against incapacity. In the case of any incapacity, a living trust will make managing your estate much easier than simply having a power of attorney designated. Financial institutions have no obligation to accept power of attorneys, but they must recognize successor trustees.

3. A living trust holds up in court if someone were to contest it. Assuming someone was to contest your estate, a living trust would stand up much better to the contests than a will.

4. A living trust can provide more privacy. Because a trust does not have to go through probate (a court process that validates a will), it will not become a matter of public record. A will must be made public due to the presentation nature of the probate process.

5. Property you transfer into a living trust doesn’t go through probate. Probate courts have no control over living trusts, so any property in the trust is not part of the decedent’s probated estate. This will help reduce the probate fees. The result is that the successor trustee (the person you appoint to handle your trust after your death) only has to simply transfer ownership of the property in the trust. This process requires no court fees and takes only a few weeks to complete.

6. A living trust is designed to manage, hold, and assign assets. While a will only deals with the assignment of your assets, a living trust allows you to assign a person to manage the assets or keep them held indefinitely. Common reasons for holding assets include: the management of assets until a beneficiary is of age, providing care for pets, or protecting a beneficiary with special needs as they receive disability income.

7. Living trusts can pre-appoint a manager for a minor’s assets. While a will is needed to appoint a guardian for a child or minor, a living trust is needed in order to designate a separate guardian for the minor’s inherited assets until they are older and more fiscally responsible.

8. Living trusts can minimize estate taxes for married couples by doubling estate tax exemptions. A will alone cannot double the exemptions.

Attorney Adam Tobin, an experienced Living Trust Attorney can discern whether a trust is advisable for your personal situation. Read about the different types of trusts or contact us to arrange a free consultation with Living Trust Attorney Adam J. Tobin

How to Choose a Nursing Home

Choosing a Nursing Home

Choosing a Nursing Home

A move to a nursing home or assisted living is much more precarious of a move than simply switching apartments.  Not only must one consider location, price, and value; but also reputation, level of care, and legal ramifications.

It is highly recommended that a patient’s physician be brought in on the decision in order to establish and ensure that their needs will be adequately met.  To complicate matters further, sometimes the search must be undertaken during the stress of a hospital or rehabilitation center threatening discharge.

In order to make the transition a little easier, we have compiled some general guidelines for finding the perfect nursing home or assisted living program.

1.       Location: Establish the most reasonable distance the nursing home can comfortably be for your loved one.  One of the most important aspects involved in quality of life at a nursing home is the prospects of visits from family.  Care is also often better for patients who have family members involved in their lives.  Due to this, make it easy on your loved ones (or yourself) by picking a nursing home less than an hour away from family.

2.       Take a Tour: Contact the facility’s admissions office and request an informal meeting and tour of each facility.  Make sure to look beyond flashy lobbies and look instead for examples of interactions between staff and residents.  Ask for a brochure of the facility (make sure it includes admissions policies and the resident’s bill of rights) and ask for any addendums.  Asking for an informal meeting and tour will give you a rare opportunity to experience an unrehearsed setting.

3.       Meet the Caretakers: Speak with the nursing home administrator or members of the staff about care plans for patients.  It is important to speak with the people responsible for direct care, not just the hired marketing representative showing you around.

4.       Try the Food: Try and get a feel for the food service quality.  Eating is something that can make or break a nursing home experience.

5.       Ask for References: Try and get the names of both residents and family members if possible so you can ask about both sides of the nursing home experience.

6.       Do Your Research: Contact the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and ask to speak with the ombudsman that covers the facilities you are interested in.  Also contact the state Department of Public Health (in MA, ask for the Division of Health Care Quality at http://www.mass.gov/dph/dhcq or call (617) 753-8000 and ask for the “Survey Performance Tool for Nursing Homes.”   Sometimes it is also possible to receive a copy of survey findings and complaint reports for the nursing homes you are looking into.

7.       Check Certifying Agency Reports: CareScout is an unbiased source for ratings and reviews of eldercare providers nationwide.  Another source for nursing home reports is HealthGrades.  For a fee, HealthGrades will provide you with a report that rates the nursing home and provides information on inspections and complaint investigations.  Also be sure to ask for a report that compares the nursing homes in your area if available.

To find out more about Massachusetts laws regarding nursing home patients and resident rights, contact a knowledgeable MA nursing home attorney like Adam Tobin to answer your questions.

Landmark Case Won by Elder Lawyer

One elder attorney made history in the state of Maryland late last month with a settlement in regards to patient care. The terms of the settlement clarify when residents of nursing homes do not have to contribute personal funds to the cost of their care. This case could result in a precedent for other states.

The lawsuit was filed on the basis of how nursing home residents would have to pay for medical bills incurred before they became eligible for Medicaid. Typically, a nursing home resident will try to get coverage and fail to do so because their assets are slightly over the requirement for Medicaid eligibility. However, they also have too few assets to pay the full cost of their care before becoming eligible for Medicaid. After qualifying, the resident can owe a nursing home thousands, putting an obvious strain on the residents and their loved ones – not to mention possibly being discharged for “not paying their bill”.

The federal law dictates a different scenario: Medicaid recipients in these situations are required to be allowed to deduct these health care costs from the income that would contribute to their care normally. Thus, the resident’s income would go towards the medical debt until it has been paid, and until this time, Medicaid covers all nursing home costs.

Maryland refused to follow this federal law, and instead required Medicaid recipients allocate all of their income to repay their cost of care, despite old medical debts. This forced some families of nursing home residents to repay the outstanding debt out of pocket, and in other instances, the nursing homes simply did not receive payments.

nursing-home-attorney

According to the recent settlement made possible by an elder attorney, which was a result of a lawsuit he filed in 2005, Maryland now agrees to allow nursing home residents to allocate their income to pay for up to three months’ worth of medical debts.  Maryland has also agreed to contribute approximately $16 million to a fund that will now reimburse nursing home residents (or their families in some instances) for medical expenses that were incurred directly to the nursing home after qualifying for Medicaid. Additionally, this fund will also help to reimburse the nursing homes that have unpaid resident bills, and in return, up to $64 million in nursing home debt will be forgiven.

Read more about the results of this Maryland Lawsuit.

A Massachusetts nursing home attorney can assure that nursing homes are abiding by the laws set forth by the state. If you are in need of a Massachusetts nursing home lawyer, contact Adam Tobin with any questions that you may have.