Tag Archives: Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney

Elder Law Terminology 101

elder-law-terminologyThere are many terms used in Elder Law that may be confusing to those who are planning for their future, or those who are dealing with the wishes of a loved one. The following are some commonly used terms in estate planning and Elder Law.

Advance Directive

An advance directive is a document that allows a person to fully state their wishes for their medical treatment in the event that they become incapacitated and unable to communicate these wishes at a later date.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document in which a person gives permission for another to act on their behalf. There are several types of powers of attorney. A general power of attorney allows the person to do anything the grantor could do. A special power of attorney gives the person the ability to do certain things, such as pay bills, make medical decisions or sell property.

Probate

Probate refers to the process of validating a will and disposing of assets as prescribed in the will. Most locations have special probate courts that are dedicated to this process.

Executor

The executor of an estate is a person that is granted power over all assets in the estate. The executor must act as the deceased person directed in the terms of their will.

Trust

A trust allows for assets to be distributed to beneficiaries at a specific time or for a specific purpose. This allows a person to have more control over the distribution of their assets to their beneficiaries. There are many types of trusts; each trust has its own benefits and drawbacks.

For more information on these terms, or for answers to your questions about Elder Law and Estate Planning, contact our offices today. We are your Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer,Massachusetts Nursing Home Attorney and Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney. We can answer all of your questions and help you plan for the future, so you don’t have to worry about the division of your assets or those of a loved one.

Ten Warning Signs that Indicate Alzheimer’s

Ten Warning Signs that Indicate Alzheimer'sAlzheimer’s Disease is an incurable form of dementia, impacting memory, thinking and behavior, that gradually worsens over time. Common in older populations, it’s estimated that over 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease today.

How do you know if a loved one might be displaying early signs of Alzheimer’s? Here’s a look at 10 warning signs to watch out for:

  1. Forgetfulness: Easily forgetting recently learned information, having to rely on reminders or sticky notes and asking the same questions over and over is a common early sign.
  2. Difficulties in solving elementary problems or planning.
  3. Trouble completing familiar tasks, like driving to work, managing a budget or remembering the rules of a popular game.
  4. Confusion, especially if it involves forgetting how they arrived somewhere.
  5. Visual image challenges: Trouble reading and a difficulty judging distance are common early signs.
  6. Difficulty with verbal/written communication.
  7. Misplacement of items and not being able to retrace their steps to locate said item.
  8. Poor judgment: Common signs include carelessness with money and a lack of proper bathing and grooming.
  9. Removal from activities: One thing to keep a lookout for is whether or not someone is removing themselves from everyday activities, like work, social activities or any hobbies they were active in.
  10. Last but not least, another warning sign is changes in mood and personality. Confusion, depression, anxiousness and fear fullness are all common signs associated with the disease.

If you suspect a loved one may be showing early signs of Alzheimer’s, it’s important to get them to a doctor. You may also want to contact a Massachusetts elder law attorney to attain Massachusetts power of attorney if you feel your loved one is no longer healthy enough for make decisions for themselves. For more information, contact your Massachusetts elder lawyer today.

Housing Options for Senior Citizens

Looking for the right nursing home.Seniors and their adult children are often perplexed about housing options. This is normal, as most adults–even seniors–spend little time building experience or spend much time considering housing options outside of the usual (homeownership, apartments or condos).

Senior Citizen Housing Option Considerations

  • Physical or medical issues. Depending on seniors’ fitness, lack of chronic disease or injury, they should consider staying in their home, finding an apartment that’s easier to maintain or evaluate assisted living residences.
  • Maintaining a home. As every homeowner, young or “mature” knows, even brand new homes need maintenance. Whether it’s a manicured lawn, flowers and plantings, removing snow in winter, and housework for all living areas, it must be done regularly. Seniors’ ability to perform maintenance influences their housing options.
  • Social/emotional issues. As seniors’ friends move or pass away, their social networks often suffer. Housing options should include consideration of social networking opportunities and emotional support.
  • Financial position. Seniors wanting to stay in their homes may need modifications, such as ramps or special bathrooms, that can be costly. These changes may or may not be less costly than finding apartments customized for seniors.

Seniors and their adult children should consult a Massachusetts elder law attorney for money-saving advice on the best housing options for older people. Residents also should consider a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer, who may be the same person, to ensure the seniors’ assets are properly protected.

As seniors become elderly, a Massachusetts nursing home attorney can be of great help finding and financing this option when seniors need it. Nursing home quality, regulations and costs can be complex issues.

Proper planning is the key requirement in evaluating the best housing options for seniors. Planning ahead and soliciting valuable advice before housing decisions are necessary will give you the knowledge to make the right choice.

A Guide to Power of Attorney for your Parents from Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney

If one or both of your parents become incapacitated or may become so in the future, to the point that they aren’t able to make crucial financial decisions, whether it be preparing and signing their tax returns, paying their bills, or making sound decisions on investments or savings, it would be a good idea for them to draw up power of attorney agreements granting authority to a third party such as one of their children, or another family member, to make financial decisions or transactions in their behalf.

The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch states that a power of attorney can cover all financial matters, or it can be specific, providing authority to handle for example, only investment accounts, or only covering their day to day financial matters such as paying bills, or using money from their bank account with a specific limit. A Massachusetts elder law attorney drafts durable power of attorney agreements specific to the state of Massachusetts, and in a way that dignifies both parents and children.

Corporate and Government financial Information advisors Financial Finesse outlines several scenarios in which parents might want to give power of attorney to their children.

1. If a parent is mentally competent presently but needs help with day to day financial activities, or in dealing with specific banks or other financial institutions. This limited, narrow power of attorney provides needed help and perhaps an added measure of peace of mind to the mentally competent parent.

2. If a parent is single or if the parent’s spouse is not mentally competent to exercise power of attorney, then it would be wise to have another person who has power of attorney on record in the event of an unexpected situation where the parent is not able to handle their financial matters.

3. A specific durable power of attorney can be prepared covering a specific period of time during which a parent might be temporarily unable to care for their financial matters or specific financial matters.

The Wall Street Journal notes that most law firms can assist clients with the necessary paperwork and that it is necessary to have forms notarized. After notarizing the documents, it would be wise to give copies to all parties including financial advisers or institutions and your attorney, and/or your parents attorney.

While some simple forms may be generic, each state generally has their own power of attorney forms. In Massachusetts one such form is the M-2848 from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. A competent and compassionate Massachusetts estate planning lawyer will provide needed assistance covering all aspects of a power of attorney between children and parents in a manner that is equitable, legal, and that ensures the greatest security.

What can a Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney Do for You?

A Massachusetts estate planning attorney that is knowledgeable in elder law can assist in all legal and financial issues pertaining to your parents’ needs.

The Sandwich Generation

Millions of Americans are facing an unprecedented situation in having to deal with the needs of their parents, their children and their own retirement all at the same time. The increased life expectancy of the current senior population has created what many demographers and planners refer to as the “sandwich generation.”

A number of new laws and regulations have come into effect over the past few decades in recognition of these new demographics. Many of these laws pertain to the care of those over 65 years of age and create the special area of legal practice called elder law.

Working with a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer who is knowledgeable in elder law is an important resource to adequately deal with your parent’s financial, legal and medical needs. There are significant issues that require attention to ensure that the most effective and efficient approaches to dealing with each of these key areas are utilized. The failure to exercise the proper diligence can cost tens of thousands of dollars and create serious legal consequences.

Maintaining a Difficult Balancing Act

Those children that find themselves caring for elderly parents often face a number of difficult decisions in a variety of areas. These individuals are called on to balance their love and concern with practical issues that have serious consequences. Just a few examples of these include;

  • If a parent can no longer drive safely, who takes the initiative in taking away the car keys? What are the legal liabilities if the parent is your responsibility and you fail to do so?
  • What financial decisions are best if it comes to the time to place a parent in a long-term care facility? What advance planning is essential?
  • When and how should legal guardianship of the parent(s) be sought?

A qualified and experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorney fully understands the impact of elder law on these areas of concern. They will be able to provide important information and guidance on these and many other issues, and with those insights, you will be well-prepared to face these challenges.

Preventing Complications with a Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney

When a loved one passes away without a will or when an elderly family member is planning to write up a will, it is important to understand the probate laws in the state. Working with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney can help simplify the process, but having some basic knowledge before talking to a lawyer will make the process of creating a will easier.

Following the Will

Working with a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer to create a will is the best way to prevent complications for loved ones. A lawyer can explain the laws regarding inheritance so that it is easier to determine who will receive different items.

In the state of Massachusetts, the legal system follows the will. Unless the will is contested, items are passed along according to the desires of the individual who created the will.

When a Will is Not Created

When a will was not established before a loved one passed away, hiring a probate lawyer may become a necessity. The probate lawyer can help determine if a case is possible and explain the inheritance laws in the state.

In Massachusetts, property that is owned jointly will automatically transfer full ownership to the other party. Tenancy by the Entirety also applies to married couples in Massachusetts, so a spouse will usually inherit a house or similar property, even if it was not a joint asset.

Any funds that were set aside in a Payable Upon Death account will go to the stated beneficiary. The state does not take Payable Upon Death accounts to probate.

If certain assets are not held jointly or there is a debate about who will receive the assets, then the case may go to court. The case will ultimately decide the division of assets based on the relationship with the deceased party.

It is best to work with a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer before passing away. Creating a will prevents loved ones from going to court and ensures that assets are given to the appropriate individuals.

Power of Attorney Versus Guardianship: Which Is Right For You?

Massachusettes Elder Law Lawyer

Massachusetts estate planning makes use of two similar legal arrangements. Each is backed up by separate authorities.

A power of attorney is useful if your loved one is somewhat incapacitated yet able to choose someone to handle their affairs. Your lawyer can write a contract assigning someone else legal authority over your loved one’s financial affairs. The power of attorney can be for a specific activity, such as the sale of a house or estate, or it can be a general power of attorney over all financial matters.

Guardianship gets its authority from a probate court. The court decides that an individual is incapable of handling their affairs and assigns decision-making authority to a guardian.

In order to get a Guardianship order, you’ll need evidence that your loved one is incompetent or incapable of handling their affairs. This is usually caused by mental illness, cognitive impairment, or loss of health. An elderly person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, may fall into that category.

Like a power of attorney, Guardianship may be obtained for specific areas of decision making. For example, you may be granted control over a loved one’s medical choices or given power to sell assets in the event of a sudden and rapid decline in health.To obtain Guardianship, you must first obtain medical documentation proving your loved one is unable to handle their affairs. Then you file a petition in probate court. Notice of Guardianship is sent out to heirs and closest living relatives. A hearing is scheduled to allow all interested parties a chance to object to the Guardianship order.For a power of attorney, you simply have your lawyer draft the papers and your loved one signs it.

Effective estate planning in Massachusetts can starts with proper legal documentation. You should seek legal counsel early on to ensure your elderly loved one’s assets are protected and managed well.

Avoiding Online Scams

Have you had an elderly loved one be financially taken advantage of through the use of the internet? Without proper financial protection from consultation with an estate planning attorney, there are many threats online for the elderly.

Why the Elderly Are The Target of Scams

Several factors combine to make many senior citizens victims of financial abuse – many have a large “nest egg” available for investment; many live alone and isolation makes them perfect targets for telemarketing; memory Elderly Online Scamsproblems may enhance gullibility; they tend to be unwilling to report victimization or poor judgment due to fear of losing independence.

Online Scams

Another serious threat contributing to the financial abuse of the elderly is access to the internet. Those of us who use the internet on a regular basis have become accustomed to ignoring the many scams we stumble upon throughout the day.

However, for our elderly loved ones, it may not be as easy to ignore the email they received stating that they won the lottery in a foreign country or that they inherited millions of dollars from a deceased long-lost cousin. Their trusting nature usually makes senior citizens a much easier target for scams such as these.

Who Can You Trust?

Many times financial internet scams involving the elderly are more difficult to detect than the flashing advertisement on the side of the screen. It’s possible that your parents were actively seeking an investment specialist and found someone who seemed like an expert. After several conversations with the person (usually through email or over the phone) your elderly parents seem to think this investment opportunity is one they can’t pass up. Before realizing it, they’ve signed away thousands of dollars that they’ll probably never see again.

The question is – how do you protect your elderly parents from being taken advantage of? The most proactive way to ensure that your parents don’t lose money to online scams is to have access to their financial statements. But most importantly you should have your parents meet with an elder law attorney to discuss financial planning and how they can best protect their assets. Contact estate planning lawyer, Adam J. Tobin today for a free consultation.

Social Security and Medicare Funds To Run Out Sooner Than Expected

Federal officials said Friday that the recent economic downturn has resulted in the trust funds that support both Medicare and Social Security shrinking faster than expected. The Medicare insurance fund is expected to run out five years earlier than previously projected –as soon as 2024. Social Security fared somewhat better, expected to be out of resources by 2936, only a year ahead of previous estimates.

Social Security FundsThese reports highlight the urgency with which the government needs to address the problems with these systems, and the employment levels which directly correlate to their success. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, commenting on this report, pointed to “the need to act sooner rather than later to make reforms to our entitlement programs. … We should not wait for the trust funds to be exhausted to make the reforms necessary to protect our current and future retirees.”

If your parents’ retirement savings is supplemented by Social Security, or they are entirely reliant upon it, consider speaking with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney. Unless these systems receive a significant overhaul soon, it will be necessary to plan your parents’ futures around other sources of income. Augmenting Social Security payments with other investments is a strategy that should be planned for early, so if you are concerned about the effect medical care costs and Social Security dwindling could have on your family’s future, contact Estate Planning Attorney, Adam J. Tobin today. It’s never too soon to plan for a safe and comfortable future.

Estate Planning – Family Businesses

Family Business Estate PlanningSmall businesses can be tricky to manage. One of the most difficult types of small businesses to deal with is the family business. These companies are often easily recognized with business signs which read something along the lines of “Smith and Sons” or taglines that say “family owned and operated.”

In addition to the usual tension that goes along with almost any family business atmosphere, there’s always the issue of estate planning. This tension usually escalates when it comes to determining succession within the business. Many times this “planning” doesn’t occur until after the head of the family business is incapacitated or has passed away. During such a stressful time for the family it can be extremely difficult to come to a rational decision for how the business should be carried on. This is why it’s important to obtain a reliable estate planning attorney prior to the establishment of a family business. In creating a plan for business succession the added stress of this type of decision can be avoided in the future.

Contact Estate Planning Attorney Adam J. Tobin to arrange a free consultation or to learn more about estate planning.