Monthly Archives: March 2011

Pet Trusts: Ensuring Your Furry Friends’ Future Care

Elder Law Pet TrustMany of us have had pets at one time or another in our lives and we all know how they’re always treated as if they were part of the family.For some, it’s just as important to ensure the security of their furry companions, just as they would for their own children, long after they are gone.

Pet owners had no legal way to leave behind money to care for their animals in Massachusetts, until now.On January 7, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law “An Act Relative to Trusts for the Care of Animals,” which will go into effect a week from today on April 7. The act simply states that “a trust for the care of one or more animals… is valid.”

A pet trust traditionally is when a sum of money is left to a pet. The beneficiary of the trust is the pet and there’s a caretaker/trustee that manages the trust and cares for the pet.

We’ve all heard about pet trusts in the news and in other states, most popularly the $12 million Maltese, Trouble Helmsley in Florida, owned by the late Leona Helmsley.

Now, you may not go that extreme, but pet trusts are no longer for the rich and famous.Who knows, maybe you might think that it would be a good idea for your pet.

Here’s how you can get started:

1. Do the number crunching and decide if the trust financially makes sense.

2. Make a framework for your pet trust to include in your estate planning.

3. Name a caretaker and a trust administrator.

4. Contact your Elder Law Attorney.

If you would like to consider setting up a trust for your pet or need any other legal advice in elder law, please contact the Law Offices of Adam Tobin today.We would be glad to help.

Plan to Protect Your Assets

Our long-term health care needs and circumstances are unknowable. Appropriate planning with the aid of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is essential to preserve your family’s assets. Consider this example:

Plan ahead with an estate planning attorney

Jane entered a nursing home several years ago originally expecting to move back into her two bedroom home. She has a will and as a widow intends to leave everything to her only son, Fred. Her only major asset was the house that she had lived in since she was a girl. Jane’s condition did not improve and she remained in the nursing home. In the state where she lived, the protective period for a single or widowed person’s home was only 6-months and at the end of this period, the house was put on the market for sale. They could not find a buyer for the house and Medicaid paid Jane’s nursing home bills and put a lien on the house. When they eventually found a buyer, all the proceeds went to paying Medicaid. Jane passed away and Fred buried his mother without the house that his mother lived in for more than 60 years.

Jane and Fred could have avoided this situation by planning ahead. Although they could not have predicted Jane’s nursing home stay, they could have met with an estate planning lawyer, learned the laws of their state, and prepared. Jane could have transferred the house to Fred (or anyone she chose) at any time at least 5 years before entering the nursing home and continue

to live in the house. Without other major assets, she would have been eligible for Medicaid immediately, no lien would have been placed on the house, and Fred would maintain the house. In short, planning ahead can preserve your estate for your loved ones.

Medicaid rules and regulations vary from state to state and are subject to change over time. In order to best understand the most current laws, we suggest you consult with an elder lawyer, like Adam Tobin.

How to Locate a Lost Will

massachusetts-elder-law-attorneyMisplaced wills can be a source of stress and confusion after a loved one has passed away and can cause frustrating legal issues for their heirs. A missing Will could indicate that the deceased had the original revoked or replaced, which can open up an even messier can of worms. Even if you are able to obtain a photocopy or an original will, it may be considered invalid if there are other natural heirs to the estate. Each state has differing rules on photocopies. If you are only able to locate a photocopy, seek out the advice of a lawyer.

–Check for obvious hiding places: under a mattress, between the pages of a book, desks, filing cabinets, stored boxes, cars, and wall or floor safes. Safes are often located in closets or garages and are usually found in places that are not obvious to the casual viewer.

–Search the house for a safe deposit box key. Keys are over-sized and are often aluminum or silver in color; they will also often have “Do not duplicate” written on the face of the key.

–Locate the bank or savings papers of the deceased and call the institution to see if there is a safe deposit box that is rented in the name of the deceased. You may need to obtain a court order to gain access to the box if you’re not listed on the signature card.

–Check the belongings of the deceased to see if there are any cards, canceled checks, or correspondence from a lawyer. Call the law firm to see if they drew up papers or referred the deceased to another firm that handles wills.

–Contact friends and business partners of the deceased to see if any of them were there to witness the will signing or if they were involved in discussions about it with the deceased. Address books and email accounts of the departed may have the names of those who they were in contact with regularly.

–Find out if the state you are in required the will to be filed at the courthouse as a public record. If so, call the courthouse and ask for the Probate department to see if you can gain access to a copy of the will.

If you need assistance from a qualified Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney concerning anything from Wills to Nursing Homes, please contact Adam Tobin.

Estate Planning 101

The idea of “estate planning” can be a bit intimidating for some people, which is unfortunate since the main reason of doing so is making sure your loved ones are provided and cared for.

Estate Planning 101

Another misconception of estate planning is that it is only for the elderly, however, if you are a parent with children who will need care and direction, it is better to start planning your estate earlier in case you suddenly become incapacitated or worse.

Estate planning needs to be factored into your overall financial plan, along with your children’s college tuition and your retirement needs in order to be really effective. Your estate consists of all your property, which includes your home, personal property like cars and furniture, and intangible property like insurance, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, and pension and social security benefits.

If you die without a will, your property will still be distributed, and essentially, by not leaving a valid estate plan, state law will end up writing your will for you. So what can estate planning do for you?

Provide for your immediate family

A good estate plan makes sure that your spouse and loved ones are provided for. Couples with children can ensure their education and upbringing is not left to chance. For children under 18 years of age, both you and your spouse should have a will that nominates personal guardians for them. If that is not specified, a court would have to decide where your kids will live and who will make all important decisions for them regarding their money, education, and way of life.

Provide for other relatives who need help and guidance

If you have a family member, such as an elderly parent or disabled child, whose life would become more difficult without you, establishing a special trust fund would be a good way to ensure their future.

Get your property to beneficiaries quickly

By planning ahead, you can make certain that your beneficiaries receive the property you’ve left them promptly and without unnecessary expenses and court interference.

Plan for incapacity

Use living wills and durable powers of attorney to plan for possible mental or physical incapacity; pick someone you really trust to make important health and financial decisions for you in the event that you are incapable of doing so for yourself.

Minimize expense

Estate planning can reduce the expenses associated with transferring property to beneficiaries, such as probate costs, and by reducing these expenses you will be leaving more to your loved ones.

Choose executors/trustees for your estate

By choosing competent executors/trustees, you can save your estate money, reduce the burden on your survivors, and simplify the administration of your estate.

Ease the strain on your family

You can take a lot of the burden off your grieving loved ones by planning ahead for funeral arrangements and other expenses, and by letting your loved ones know how you want your affairs to be handled so they do not have to deal with unnecessary added stress.

Help a favorite cause

Your estate plan can help support religious, educational, and other charitable causes, either during your lifetime or upon your death, and at the same time take advantage of tax benefits designed to encourage charitable giving.

Reduce taxes on your estate

The idea is to get the maximum amount possible to go to your loved ones and designated beneficiaries. Properly planning your estate can help you with that, giving the maximum allowed by law to your beneficiaries and the minimum to the government.

Make sure your business runs smoothly

If you have a small business, the operation could turn to chaos without you there to guide it. A good estate plan can provide for an orderly succession and continuation of your business affairs by spelling out what will happen to your interest in the business.

estate-planning-lawyer-can-help-you-plan-your-estate

Consulting an elder law attorney, such as Adam Tobin, could prove very helpful when it comes to planning your estate. Contact Adam Tobin to get helpful advice from a knowledgeable estate planning attorney.

How to Cut Elder-Care Costs

Consult an elder law attorney for assistance on cutting elder-care costs

Consult an elder law attorney for assistance on cutting elder-care costs.

There is a generation that is sometimes referred to as “the sandwich generation;” these are the people who have to care not only for their children, but for their elderly parents as well. It is a hard and multi-dimensional job, with declining retirement savings and health care costs skyrocketing to worry about for their parents, and college tuition and all the additional costs that come with raising a child.

To help you better manage the costs of caring for an elderly loved one, follow these helpful tips:

Negotiate.

It never hurts to ask. Try negotiating with a facility on pricing, especially if they are not filled to capacity. Donna Schempp, program director for the nonprofit, Family Caregiver Alliance, says it’s “worth the conversation, particularly if your parent is already there and they’d have to move out.”

Offer to Share a Room.

Some assisted-living facilities set aside a certain number of rooms to share for lower-income seniors who cannot afford the full fee. Mary Winners, owner of About Senior Solutions, knows of some facilities that could charge as low as $1,300 to $1,700 per person for a shared room, as opposed to those who spend $2,500 to $3,500 on a private room.

Hire a Geriatric-Care Manager.

A geriatric-care manager can do everything from assessing your parent’s long-term care needs and finding them a place to live, to helping you navigate the complicated health-care system. They can also save you lots of time and money in the long run, making their fees, which range from $80 to $200 an hour, seem a lot more satisfying.

A situation where a geriatric-care manager would be helpful would be if you did not live close to your aging parent and they needed regular assistance. A manager may be better able to find a high-quality assisted living facility near her home that’s financially supported by the community. They know what is out there and will be better equipped to negotiate on your behalf.

Managers can also serve as a mediator if family members are in conflict over an elderly relative, which on its own; can save you plenty of time and headaches.

Adult Day Care

If you work during the day, and your elderly parent cannot be left at home alone, enrolling them in an adult day care program is a lot more affordable than private, in-home care. Fees for adult day services vary, but the national average rate is $64 a day, compared to the hourly rate of $20 (or $160 for an eight-hour day) for home health aides, according to a 2008 MetLife study.

Hire a Part-Time Caretaker

For seniors who do not require close or full-time supervision, hire someone to regularly check in and spend some time with your parent. It could be anyone from a neighbor to a friend or family member. If your mom or dad lives near a university, hire a student to do things such as grocery shopping, cleaning, and meal preparation, as well as provide companionship. It will only cost you about $15 an hour for such services.

Caring for an elderly parent can be emotionally, physically, and financially draining at times. By following these helpful tips, hopefully at least the financial burden will seem a little less intimidating. If you have any other questions regarding elder care or elder law, consult a qualified elder law attorney, like Adam Tobin, to assist you with any questions or concerns you may have.