Tag Archives: Elder Lawyer

The Dangers of a Do-it-Yourself Last Will

do-it-yourself-last-willA do-it-yourself will sounds like a simple and inexpensive way to let your loved ones know your wishes in the event of your death. Doing your own will at home, however, may end up leading to avoidable problems such as taxation and court battles. Do-it-yourself wills may seem like a good deal, but the money put out later could cost a lot more than using an estate planning lawyer to draw up your documents.

Do-it-yourself wills may prove to be invalid if you do not follow all state and federal laws. For instance, if you used a witness with an invested interest in your estate, the will may not hold up in court. It must also be proven that the signatures found on the will were properly witnessed. Also, if the original will can’t be produced, your wishes may not be followed. An estate planning lawyer typically stores your will in a fireproof location to ensure the original can be produced in court. An estate planner could also be called into court and testify about the validity about the claims included in the will.

The language used in the will must be perfect for claims to be valid. As an example, a court could interpret the wording wrong and subject your assets to costly estate taxes. Estate taxes can deplete the funds you leave behind for your beneficiaries. Instead, meet with an estate planning attorney to go over the language and inclusions of your documents to prevent will contests. Otherwise, your family may then be forced into a legal battle and be forced to pay an exorbitant amount of court and probate lawyer fees.

The biggest downfall of a do-it-yourself-will package? You don’t receive personalized advice from an estate planning attorney. The will software packages can provide general advice, but won’t be helpful if you have a more unique situation. Will software packages are not likely to provide you with guidelines on how to handle domestic partnerships, children from other marriages, disinherited children or special needs children. As an example, a stepfather who claims in his do-it-yourself will to leave all his assets to his children may find his stepchildren cut out of any inheritance money he meant for them. Also, living trusts and power of attorney are not usually properly handled in online will programs. In these cases, set up a consultation with a living trust attorney.

Do-it-yourself will software packages may require you to fix errors later on. Get your will right the first time by meeting with a licensed and professional estate planning attorney. Reduce family conflict by clearly stating your wishes and keeping the proper documentation stored with a lawyer. The Law offices of Adam Tobin is waiting to hear from you to create your legal and valid last will and testament.

Massachusetts Elder Law Planning for Long-term Care

longtermcare-elder-lawElder law attorneys in Massachusetts can help you solve issues regarding long-term care arrangements. If you are not proactive and speak to a Massachusetts elder lawyer early on, long-term care costs can deplete the estate of you or your loved ones. Although insurance may help assuage some of the financial burden, an estate planning attorney can present different options to you.

Long –Term Care Insurance Policies

As part of your estate planning, you may decide to take out an insurance policy in the case you or a loved one requires extensive medical care in a long-term facility. Policies available cover nursing home care and assisted living costs. Your elder lawyer can include policy terms in your living will along with give you advice on how to select the best policy. Since you may not need long-term insurance for years, choose an established insurance provider with a long track record of honoring claims. A Massachusetts elder attorney is likely to point out the importance of an inflation rider that allows the benefit amount to increase each year. If you need long-term care in 10 or 20 years, you want to make sure the coverage you have is sufficient.

Getting Your Wishes Granted

An elder attorney ensures that you or your loved one gets the care you want and deserve. In your living will, you could instruct your loved ones on the type of facility you want to be placed. A list of facilities and nursing care providers can also be listed in a long-term care plan. Your attorney also helps you find the funds from your estate to pay for long-term care if required. All monies are reviewed during your consultation to make the smartest financial decisions. Monies used for long-term care can come from medical insurance, reverse mortgages, long-term care insurance, veteran’s benefits, income and savings.

Documents You Need

Telling your children or grandchildren your wishes for long-term care is not enough. A MA elder care lawyer assures all documentation is filed and legally-binding. Your attorney can draw up your last will and testament, living will and power of attorney documents. In your documents, you could also designate a personal care coordinator. This person is in charge of making the decisions when you are medically incapacitated due to old age or disease.

Speak to a MA elder lawyer early on to avoid financial disaster. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if used for long-term care. Avoid losing your entire estate by planning for this possibility with an elder law attorney.

Understanding Medicaid

Nursing home care and Medicaid in Massachusetts.The process of applying for Medicaid can be difficult to understand. The first time many people begin to even think about entering this process is when a loved one requires nursing home care or such care is imminent. Many times applying for Medicaid is reactive to situations such as these and emotions are usually running quite high. In many instances the applicant tries to complete the process as quickly as possible and doesn’t pay close enough attention to some of the details – resulting in their application being declined. Since the Medicaid field is always changing it’s important to do your due diligence when going through this process.

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid was created in 1965 as a part of the Social Security Act as a form of welfare for individuals and families with low income/resources who require long-term medical care. Often confused with Medicare, Medicaid is a joint federal-state funded program which is run by each individual state. While eligibility rules are often different from state to state, each system must adhere to federal guidelines in order to receive funding (which is usually about half of the state’s Medicaid costs).

What are the eligibility requirements for Medicaid?

Since each state operates its own Medicaid program there are often discrepancies in eligibility depending on which state the applicant lives in (the Medicaid program in Massachusetts is referred to as MassHealth).  You may be eligible to apply for Medicaid if you have limited resources and fall into any of the following categories: children requiring nursing home care (some states up to age 21), parents/guardians of eligible children (under age 18), pregnant women, people with certain disabilities, and elderly persons needing nursing home care. Each individual case is different so it is important to contact an expert on elder law services to help assess your situation. For more information about whether or not you may be eligible to apply for Medicaid click here.

For further assistance in this complicated process contact the law offices of Adam J. Tobin today!

Social Security Payments Going Paperless – How To Handle Direct Deposits

As of May 1st, the U.S. Treasury is no longer offering paper checks for Social Security, Veterans Affairs, and other government payments. Instead, the new paperless plan employs direct deposit to any bank account. This offers many practical advantages, but to many senior citizens and their families, putting trust in this system can be a significant challenge.

Here are a few suggestions for how to manage the transition:

1) If your parents don’t already have a bank account, set one up as soon as

possible. Local banks and credit unions usually offer fee-free checking and savings accounts, but not always online banking. Make sure you choose a bank that lets you access your account online.

Estate planning for the new paperless social security checks
2) Offer to log in and make sure all is well with the direct deposits. It only takes a few minutes a day to offer a lot of peace of mind. Plus, you might catch a mistake such as overdrawing the account in time to prevent it from costing your parents more of their money.
3) Don’t elect to get payments on a prepaid debit card. Take the time to set up a bank account for your parents if need be – prepaid cards are too easy to lose or misplace.
4)Make sure your parents’ estate planning accounts for their Social Security or other payments. Wills and trusts may rely in part on government payments, so be sure to notify your elder law attorney if you are changing your parents’ financial institution or their payment plan.

If you help your parents through this process, they will soon find that direct deposit makes their lives easier. This plan was put in place by the Treasury to benefit the environment and reduce cost, but it can also directly benefit your parents’ quality of life. How often can you say that? Contact Elder Law Attorney Adam Tobin today to find out more information.

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.

Estate Planning for Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a progressive, chronic disease that calls for constant care that is delivered over time and fluctuates day-to-day.  The kind of care needed, known as chronic care, takes the form of daily personal-care assistance, medication distribution, supervision, companionship, helping with chores, etc. Chronic care systems vary from state to state; it includes both community-based and institutional care providers.  There are also state, federal, and private funding sources available.

The need for chronic health care system is ever growing, and the health care professionals can no longer rely on the once abundant Medicare and Medicaid programs to subsidize the chronic care their patients require.  Alzheimer’s is fast becoming the most prevalent and disabling chronic illness in the United States.  As chronic care systems strain to capacity, Alzheimer’s patients and their loved ones should utilize their own resources in the most effective way to ensure the quality of their care.  Here are a few strategies to aid in the planning effort.

Step 1: Advance Directives

– Once an individual with Alzheimer’s disease has lost their memory, ability to reason, and ability to understand consequences, it is too late to designate someone to take care of their decisions.  Choosing a decision-maker in advance of incapacity can be invaluable when trying to maintain the quality of life for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

– There are five advance directives that must be considered as early as possible: a power of attorney, a health care proxy, a will, a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, and a living will.  The earlier you can get to an estate planning attorney to establish these directives, the better off you and your loved one will be.

Step 2: Estate Inventory

–       An estate inventory is essentially a snapshot of the resources you or your loved one have that can be used to subsidize care giving.  We cannot efficiently plan or manage long-term care without an inventory of the assets at your disposal.

–       There are six long-term care resources: Health Insurance, Income/Assets, Community Resources, Family/Friends, Home Environment, and the Client’s Self-Care Capacity.

Step 3: Care Needs Assessment

–       A care needs assessment for an Alzheimer’s patient examines what the patient requires, how much care can be provided from the family, the configuration of the home, and the patient’s capabilities.

–       These are best performed by family members or close friends.  A care needs assessment will help predict the gradual increase in level of care.

–       Families can also hire independent care managers  or their local elder service agencies to perform the assessment.

Step 4: Defining the Options

–       Once the advance directives are in place, the resources are organized, and the care needs are assessed, the real planning can start.  It is important to consider both short term and long term needs.

–       Safety, resource limitations, and behavior management are all options that must be considered.

Long-term care is a journey, one that must be planned for extensively.  Your plan must be adaptable and based on correct information.  The more knowledge you can gather, the better.  Working to plan for long-term care can be a struggle.  If you are struggling, the help of an estate planning lawyer can make a huge difference.  Don’t hesitate to contact estate planning lawyer Adam Tobin with any questions or to schedule a free consultation.

How Living Situations Affect Estate Plans

Estate Planning based on Living SituationsWhere do you call home? It may be at your home independently, at a facility, or with an adult child. Based on where you live, there are legal issues that must be addressed. These living situation-specific edits are extremely important to consider when creating your estate plan.

1.  If you are living independently at home, the two important legal issues to address are the estate plan itself and a deed transfer.

In regards to your estate, make sure that you first inventory all assets and create a broad life plan. Considering this broad plan, you must decide what sort of estate plan will work for you. Working with an estate planning attorney is the best way to customize your estate plan to fit your needs. Maybe a basic will package (including a will, a living will, and power of attorney) is enough of an estate plan to fit your needs, both financial and physical. On the other hand, you might need a more complex plan that includes several types of trusts. An elder lawyer is a great resource to use when deciding.The second important estate planning step for someone living at home independently is to consider whether a deed transfer with a life estate is something that would fit into your plan. Will you be able to maintain your current lifestyle without access to the equity in your house? If you transfer your house five years before submitting a Medicaid application, you will have preserved an asset. There are risks to a deed transfer, however. Once it is transferred, you cannot get it back without proof of undue influence or fraud. Also, if your adult child (or whomever the house was transferred to) gets divorced or receives a judgment, the house might be subject to some sort of equitable distribution or a lien. These are just a couple of the issues that should be discussed fully with an estate planning attorney.

2.  If you are living with an adult child, the main legal issue to address is the creation of a caregiver agreement. This basically defines the living arrangement between you and your child to avoid any potential conflict in the future. For example, you might want to purchase a life estate in their property or create a landlord/tenant arrangement. You also need to define what portions of funds paid by you will compensate for rent and care. This may seem unimportant if you have a great relationship with your child, but spelling out all the terms of your stay will work to preserve that great relationship. Also, Medicaid recognizes a caregiver agreement when the amount paid is considered reasonable compensation (80% of fair market value.)

3.  When living in a facility, there are several issues to be addressed in an estate plan (and the earlier, the better.) Typically, a parent is placed in a skilled care facility or nursing home due to a recent or sudden accident or sickness and the adult child must figure out how to proceed. It is much more beneficial to work with an elder care attorney beforehand so as to fully outline your preferred plan. The most pressing matter is usually the method of payment. There are four methods of payment available: long term care insurance, Veteran’s benefits, private payment, or Medicaid. Another taxing situation involves preparing for what the social service agency will need in regards to the parent. The real secret, however, is in the “spend down.” Funds must be “spent down” before you can qualify for Medicaid. One of the best ways to do this is to hire a nursing home lawyer, because legal fees are permissible expenses (meaning money can be spent down on payment of legal fees in order to complete a Medicaid application.

So whether you live at home, in a facility, or with an adult child, you must consider situation-specific legal issues. The best way to ensure that you are executing your estate plan in the most efficient way is to work with an elder care attorney. If you have any questions or are ready to begin the estate planning process, contact us now to schedule a free consultation with Massachusetts estate planning attorney Adam J. Tobin.

Strange Wills!

When working with an elder law attorney to create your estate plan, the last will and testament often takes the forefront. Many people see a will as the entire estate plan. While this is not at all true – estate planning involves trusts, nursing home choices, elder care, and so much more – the will is certainly a pivotal part. When working with an estate planning attorney, make sure that you include every provision you can think of! Specificity is key, so make sure not to leave out any requests – no matter how strange they may seem. Even strange requests are important.

Just to prove this point, here is a list of some of the stranger wills around.

Good thing Houdini made his will early.

Good thing Houdini made his will early.

Born in 1874, Harry Houdini was the greatest illusionist of his time (maybe even of all time!) When he passed away in 1926, his will revealed an eccentric side. He left his extensive library of magic-themed books to the American Society for Psychological Research on the stipulation that the research officer must resign. He left the rabbits that were pulled out of hats to the children of his friends. Most bizarrely, he left a “secret code” (really just a series of ten random words) to his wife and explained he would use them to contact her from the afterlife. Regardless of the decade of annual séances his wife held, he never showed up!

Acting on the assumption that he and his family would be reincarnated, Vermont tanner John Bowman created a $500,000 trust fund in 1891 for the maintenance of his mansion. The will required that dinner be served every night in case they returned hungry. The nuance was carried out until 1950, when the trust fund ran out.

Rock and blues singer Janis Joplin was known for her heavy drinking and drug use, and died of an overdose in 1970. The strange part of the will was that she changed it just two days before her death. She decided to set aside a couple thousand dollars to pay for a party after her funeral for 200 guests at her favorite bar in California. Talk about a strange stipulation (and even stranger coincidence!)

If you have questions on the effectiveness of your will, or to start the estate planning process, contact contact us or arrange a free consultation with Massachusetts Nursing Home Attorney Adam Tobin.

Click here to read some more strange wills!

Common Estate Planning Mistakes

When starting to plan your estate, there are a myriad of decisions to be analyzed and made. There are so many, in fact, that it is difficult to create your own estate plan without running into some sort of error or overlooked clause. While the only way to be sure that your estate plan is airtight is to enlist the help and expertise of an estate planning attorney, there are a few common estate planning mistakes that you can look out for.

The first common mistake: Not preparing for incapacity. Most people assume that the most important part of an estate plan is to address how assets will be divided among heirs — and in truth it is one of the most important, but most people also forget to plan for incapacity. A good estate plan should spend an equal amount of time addressing how your estate should be handled and how you are to be cared for if you are no longer able to manage it yourself. The “who gets what” provisions are certainly important, but there are other aspects that need equal attention.

Another common mistake is assuming that their children, either children or adults, don’t need any sort of inheritance protection protocols put in place. Many assume that the best way to avoid bureaucratic or financial entanglements is to just give their heirs the lump sum of their inheritance. This, however, leaves the inheritance wide open to the divorcing spouses, creditors, and the wims of 18 year olds heirs. It is possible to protect your child’s inheritance with very few strings attached. A trust plan can be created that will allow your child to become his own trustee of his share. This will provide almost unlimited access to the money, but it also allows the child to add an independent co-trustee to their share of the estate in case of problems. This will ensure that the money will still be considered part of the original estate – off limits to creditors or divorcing spouses.

“Blended family relationships” often become a tricky obstacle in estate planning. There are tons of scenarios everyday involving dealing with communication and cooperation between surviving spouses from a second (or third, etc.) marriage and children from the first (or second, etc) marriage. No matter how much you love and trust your children and your new spouse, you must remember that the prospect of money often causes even the best people to be self-serving. Enacting a solid trust plan that specifically covers remarriage restrictions and other protections will ensure minimal dispute, and overlooking these protections is our third common mistake.

The final common estate planning mistake is much less tangible than the rest: thinking of your estate planning as an “event” rather than as a “process.” Your estate planning is a process – one that takes a long time and should be gradually established. Within the time spent estate planning, laws will have changed, assets with develop, and your personal relationships with evolve. These must all be reflected in your estate planning choices. A common mistake is not reviewing your estate plan on a regular basis to ensure that no changes need to be made. Make sure not to forget to review and revise regularly!

The estate planning process is a complicated road that is best navigated with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. If you have any questions about your current estate plan, or wish to begin the process of creating one, contact Estate Planning Attorney Adam Tobin.

Nursing Home Myths, Busted!

The decision to move a loved one to a nursing home is often riddled with anxiety and unending questions. Nursing home residents and family members have much more influence in determining the care received than they may think. Unfortunately, some nursing homes know that most residents and their family members are unaware of their rights and employ policies that violate Nursing Home Reform Law. These policies involve resident admission, care, reimbursement, and eviction. Without the knowledge and help of a nursing home attorney, it can be hard to ensure that you or your loved ones are not being taken advantage of.

The best thing you can do is contact a nursing home lawyer and ensure that all policies benefit the resident. An elder law attorney knows the ins and outs of nursing home law, and is your best bet for a smooth admission process. There are many myths that often hinder resident admissions, so we felt it was important to post the realities that are important to know.

MYTH: Medicaid probably won’t cover the services you want.
REALITY: Residents on Medicaid are entitled to the same services offered to other residents.

MYTH: The staff alone determines the care a resident receives.
REALITY: Both residents and their loved ones have the right to participate in care plan development.

MYTH: Individual schedules cannot be accommodated.
REALITY: A resident’s needs, schedule, and preferences must be catered to with reasonable adjustments.

MYTH: If the resident does not progress, therapy must be discontinued.
REALITY: Therapy may be fitting even if the resident does not show progress. Medicare will often cover the costs even without recent progress.

MYTH: There might not be available private space for family members or residents to meet.
REALITY: Nursing homes are required to provide private space for resident or family meetings. 

MYTH: Restraints must be used for the prevention of wandering residents.
REALITY: No type of restraint can be used for discipline or for the staff’s convenience.

MYTH: The nursing home can require you to pay extra charges at any time.
REALITY: Nursing homes can only require an extra charge that was authorized in the admission agreement.

MYTH: For optimal care, you must hire private help.
REALITY: Nursing home staff members must provide any and all necessary care.

MYTH: Family must visit within strict visiting hour periods.
Family members may visit the resident at any time, night or day.

MYTH: If a resident is considered difficult or refuses medical treatment, they can face eviction.
REALITY: Neither refusal of medical treatment nor a difficult personality justifies eviction.

The best way to understand how best to go about finding the nursing home for you or a loved one is to work with a nursing home attorney who can ensure that your best interests are kept as a priority.  A little advanced planning can save a great deal of future anxiety; often the need for a nursing home is abrupt and requires quick action.

Click here to find out more about Massachusetts laws regarding nursing home patients and resident rights. If you are have any inquiries as to the process, contact us or arrange a contact us or arrange a free consultation with Massachusetts Nursing Home Attorney Adam Tobin.