Monthly Archives: October 2010

Planning for Pets

While you spend most of your estate planning focused on your family and friends’ well being, there is often one slightly furrier friend that is overlooked – your pet.  There is a long history of providing for pets in the UK, and these sorts of arrangements have become much more popular in the US.

Leona Helmsley and her dog, Trouble.

Leona Helmsley and her dog, Trouble.

There have even been some pretty absurd cases in the news lately about pets being provided for – deceased billionaire Leona Helmsley left $12 million in a trust for the care of her dog, Trouble.  Tobacco heiress Doris Duke willed a $100,000 trust for her Shar-Pei, Rodeo. A traditional pet trust works in every US state and allows the pet owner to leave specific instructions to the pet caregiver.

When working with an estate planning attorney, there are many instruction options to consider.   Here are a few of the most important :

  • Food and preferred diet
  • Favorite toys
  • Cages and housing (scratch posts, dog houses etc.)
  • Grooming
  • Health care (often a specific veterinarian is named)
  • Burial or cremation upon the pet’s death
  • Liability insurance in case someone is injured by your pet

If you are considering how much money to put in your pet trust, make sure you keep in mind the animal’s life expectancy (6 to 14 years for a dog, 12 to 18 years for a cat, and 10 to 30 years for a pet bird), the expected cost of veterinarian services, and the expected cost of grooming and upkeep.

These are just a few things to discuss when considering your estate plan with an elder law attorney.  Click here for more information about estate planning, or contact elder law attorney Adam Tobin for a free consultation.

Power of Attorney Tips

One of the most important estate planning documents is a durable Power of Attorney.  If you were to become incapacitated, a durable Power of Attorney will allow someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf.  A principal (the creator of the Power of Attorney document) is guaranteed that their wishes will be carried out as they had planned.  Having a durable Power of Attorney document will keep the principal from needing any sort of court-appointed guardian.  The attorney-in-fact (the person designated to act for the principal) is usually someone that is close to and trusted by the principal.  When creating a Power of Attorney document, there are a few things you need to know, and a few you should consider with an Elder Care Attorney.

1. To Spring or Not to Spring? There are two types of Power of Attorney documents – springing and non-springing.  A springing Power of attorney means that the attorney-in-fact (the person you designate) has no power to act on behalf of the principle until some event occurs – that event is up to you.  Most commonly principles choose incapacity as the event where the principal is to “spring” into action.  A non-springing Power of Attorney is effective immediately upon its creation.  It does not require incapacity or a similar event for the attorney-in-fact to act on behalf of the principal.  While a non-springing document may seem like the better choice, they are often not accepted by financial institutions due to liability.  Also, if you can’t trust your attorney-in-effect not to abuse their power, they probably shouldn’t be your choice.

2. Durability is Key. A Power of Attorney that is not “durable” will essentially become void if the principal becomes incapacitated.  Make sure that you work with an Elder Lawyer with Power of Attorney experience to ensure that they language in the document specifically states that it is durable (not affected by the disability or incapacity of the principal) and strong.

3. One is a Lonely Number. Being the sole attorney-in-effect can be a large burden to bear, but you can solve that by appointing more than one co-attorneys-in-fact to share the responsibilities.  This is a good choice for many situations, but if your co-attorney-in-fact cannot agree or get along, it will be your estate that will suffer. 

4. Be Specific about Gifts. If you intend that your attorney-in-fact should be given the power to make gifts on your behalf, then you must make sure the document includes specific authorization instructions.  If you do not, the courts may rule that the gifts are void and enact significant estate taxes.

Click here to learn more about Power of Attorney.  If you are considering a Power of Attorney, or if you have any inquiries as to the process, contact us or arrange a free consultation with Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney Adam Tobin.

The Basics of Appointing a Trust Protector

In the last five years, trust protectors have become a growing trend in elder law.  A trust protector is a designated authority over a trust; they are responsible for ensuring that the trust will be executed as intended.  They have been used for many years – mostly only by those with wealthier estates – but they have become much more common in recent years.  A great advantage of appointing a trust protector is that they can help allow for any life changes that would occur in case of incapacitation.  Having a trust protector makes the trust much easier to change in case of changes in the law or in your personal situation.

If you decide to appoint a trust protector, you should meet with an elder law attorney to set it up within your trust document. You also must also include the powers given to the trust protector.

You may appoint the following powers to your trust protector:

– The power to make changes in the trust in case of changes in the law

– The power to remove a trustee who is not acting according to the rules of the trust

– The power to remove a trustee who refuses their job as a trustee

– The power to settle any disbutes between tht trustee and any trust beneficiary

– The power to make changes to the distribution of the trust in case of changes in a beneficiary’s life

If you decide that a trust protector is a right choice for your trust, you must work with an elder lawyer to ensure that the powers entrusted are spelled out and clear.  An elder law attorney can also advise you on the correct balance of powers that are appropriate.

You can choose anyone to be your trust protector, but it isn’t recommended that you appoint a family member or a beneficiary.  It also is not recommended to appoint yourself.  Most protectors are independent, unbiased parties such as your lawyer or your accountant.  There are also trust companies that can act as your trust protector.

Attorney Adam Tobin, an experienced Living Trust Attorney can discern whether a trust protector 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.

Long Term Care Facilities Overview

When trying to decide what level of assisted living or nursing home care is appropriate for yourself or a loved one, it can often to be difficult to understand the options available for you.

While many times it can be a simple decision (e.g. just an over 50 living facility with maximum independence is often the first step,) often is difficult to judge the level of care needed.  Many people make the decision to meet with a nursing home attorney or elder lawyer to help make the decision.

Here is an overview of the structured facilities for long-term care:

nursing home assistance

ECF (Extended Care Facility): Includes assisted living and both levels of nursing home care.

SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility): As these are only for short term stays that are covered by Medicare and other GMOs, they aren’t a long-term option. Once the allotted number of days under the resident’s insurance plan are used for the year, you will be given the option to pay privately or you must be approved to receive Medicaid long-term to continue to receive care.  You must also have a specific need for short-term occupational and/or physical therapy to stay at a SNF.

ICF (Intermediate Care Facility): This type of facility is for long-term residential care for residents that need 24-hour supervision and care but not at a skilled level.  These types of facilities can be paid for out-of-pocket or through Medicaid.

AL (Assisted Living): This type of facility is not covered by insurance; they are paid for out-of-pocket.  Assisted Living facilities offer minimal care and are not meant for seriously ill patients.  Medicaid will cover the expense if you can qualify for an Assisted Living Waiver – to start that process, get in touch with elder law attorney Adam J. Tobin.

IL (Independent Living): Independent Living facilities are essentially senior communities with meals and activities provided.  It is the lowest level of care offered and is not meant for those with illness or serious mental ailments. These facilities are also paid for out-of-pocket.

If you are trying to figure out the level of care you or a loved one needs, or if you have any questions about the process of selecting a facility, please contact us and arrange a free consultation with Massachusetts estate planning attorney Adam Tobin.