Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney | The Need for Advanced Medical Directives Made Clear

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Jan 25, 2013

elder law, power of attorney, health care proxyThe following case study is designed to illustrate the importance of having up to date health care and disability documents.  As part of every estate plan, one should have the documents necessary to allow family members to make your health care and financial decisions if you are ever rendered unable to do so.  If you do not have the proper disability documents, you and your family will be forced to spend wait until the court process is complete to get a guardian and conservator appointed.  This can take considerable time and cost your family thousands of dollars.

 

            Mrs. Henry. Case Study

Mrs. Henry came to our office with a major issue.  Her husband, Mr. Henry, had slipped and hit his head very hard one night.  Ever since the fall, Mrs. Henry told us, her husband had been in a persistent vegetative state for nearly 3 months.  Mr. Henry, an engineer in his 60’s, had not executed the proper health care and disability documents prior to his fall and as a result, Mrs. Henry was not allowed to make any decisions or take any actions on behalf of her husband.  Important medical decisions were being left up to a team of doctors who had never met Mr. Henry and had no inkling of what he would have wanted.  Mrs. Henry wanted to be able to make decisions on her husband’s behalf.

After listening to this tragic story, we informed Mrs. Henry that the only thing we could do at this point was file to have her appointed as guardian and conservator for her husband.  The process would involve the preparation of detailed forms and then going to Court to file the documents and plead the case before a judge.  We would also be required to make sure all the forms will completed properly, so that the court would accept them.  The filing would also result in sensitive private information, like medical records and financial information, being made public record through the Court.

The process for getting Mrs. Henry appointed as guardian and conservator took several weeks and several court appearances.  Like most people, Mrs. Henry and her family were unaware of this lengthy legal process, which can be completely avoided by having the right documents.   If Mr. Henry had simply signed the appropriate paperwork, Mrs. Henry would have been able to immediately collaborate with her husband’s doctors on all necessary decisions.  Instead, she was forced to spend unnecessary time and money getting herself appointed as guardian and conservator so that she could get Mr. Henry moved to a facility that offered the appropriate level of care so he could begin his rehabilitation and recovery.

At the estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center proper health care and disability documents are included with every estate plan.  This ensures that our clients leave our office with the peace of mind of knowing that should an unspeakable tragedy occur, like the one that Mr. & Mrs. Henry are enduring, their family will be able to make important decisions without the need to go to Court and without wasting time and money.  We even provide a service through which our clients’ emergency contact information as well as important disability documents are available to them 24/7.  No matter where they are or when something happens, knowing who to contact in an emergency and finding and accessing their crucial documents will not be an issue.  Many hospitals and financial institutions in the refuse to accept health care and disability documents that are more than one year old.  In response, we offer clients membership in our unique Lifetime Protection Program which helps them ensure their documents will be up to date and available when needed.  Members of the Lifetime Protection Program have their entire estate plan reviewed by our team of dedicated, caring professionals to ensure that the entire plan is still working towards accomplishing their goals, even in the face of ever changing laws and personal circumstances.

For more information on the critical importance of having up to date health care and disability documents or on how our team of professionals and our unique education and counseling process can help you and your family, please call our office at (781) 237-2815.

You Could Lose Everything  Unless You Act Now

Tags: power of attorney, health care proxy, HIPAA, Estate Planning, Health Care, durable power of attorney, advanced directives, Elder Law

Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer | Jill Saved $30,000 - Part One

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Wed, Jan 23, 2013

Medicaid, Medicare, Fiscal Cliff, Seniors, Estate Planning, MassachusettsJill needed help. 

She had cared for her grandfather for years.  When he needed nursing level care she found a nursing home nearby, arranged for him to be admitted and, as agent under his Power of Attorney, spent down his remaining assets.  Jill then scheduled an appointment with a Medicaid caseworker to file a Medicaid application on his behalf.   It seemed to be pretty simple, but problems quickly arose.

Jill gathered her grandfather’s financial records together and turned them over to the Medicaid caseworker at the first interview.  The caseworker completed the Medicaid application with her right there, printed it and had her sign it. She left the office thinking everything would proceed smoothly – that is until she got a letter from the same caseworker telling her that her grandfather still had $30,000 in assets remaining to be spent down.

Jill was confused by the letter.  She was positive that her grandfather had only a few hundred dollars left in his checking account, the only asset he had remaining.  That’s when she called our office for help.  Jill provided us with copies of everything she gave to the caseworker, and upon reviewing everything, we found 2 accounts that were titled in the name of her grandfather, custodian for Jill, with the initials UGMA at the end.

I explained to Jill that UGMA stands for Unified Gift to Minors Account.  Jill said she didn’t even know those accounts existed.  She just gathered together whatever paperwork she could find for her grandfather and turned it all over to the caseworker.   The caseworker insisted that Jill needed to cash those accounts in and pay the nursing home, then her grandfather would qualify for Medicaid.

Next week we’ll reveal why the Medicaid caseworker was wrong and what we did to fix Jill’s problem and get her grandfather help.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique education and counseling approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops. Call 800-964-4295 to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your beneficiaries, digital assets, Estate Plan and legacy.

 Elder Law Attorney, Estate Planning Lawyer, Massachusetts

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Tags: Nursing Home Costs, asset protection, Medicaid, Nursing Homes, advanced directives, caregiver, transfer of assets, caretakeer, Medicare

Power of Attorney vs. Guardianship | Boston Estate Planning Attorney

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Thu, Aug 09, 2012

What is the difference between a power of attorney and guardianship?

A power of attorney is a legal document where one person (the principal) authorizes another person (the agent) to act on his or her behalf, either for health care decisions or for financial decisions.

guardianship, power of attorney

Guardianship is a legal relationship whereby a court gives a person (the guardian) the power to make personal decisions for another (the ward). A family member or friend initiates the proceedings by filing a petition in the circuit court in the county where the individual resides. A medical examination by a licensed physician is necessary to establish the individual’s condition. A court of law then determines whether the individual is unable to meet the essential requirements for his or her health and safety. If so, the court appoints a guardian to make personal decisions for the individual. Unless limited by the court, the guardian has the same rights, powers and duties over his ward as parents have over their minor children. The guardian is required to report to the court annually.

A conservatorship is a legal relationship whereby a court gives a person (the conservator) the power to make financial decisions for another (the protectee). The court proceedings are very similar to those of a guardianship, except the court of law determines whether an individual lacks the capacity to manage his or her financial affairs. If so, the court appoints a conservator to make financial decisions for the individual. Often the court appoints the same person to act as both guardian and conservator for the individual. Like the guardian, the conservator is required to report to the court annually.

Powers of attorney for health care and property/financial decisions are relatively low cost and private way to decide which family member or trusted friend will have the legal authority to carry out your wishes if you can no longer speak or act for yourself. If you do not have power of attorney, or if your powers of attorney are not drafted properly and something happens that results in your inability to make decisions, your loved ones may later face court proceedings and court supervised guardianship and/or conservatorship. A court proceeding is not only costly, but the person appointed as your guardian/conservator may not be the person whom you would have chosen yourself.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates, we help people and their families concerned with losing their homes and life savings to increasing medical and nursing home costs, taxes and the costs and time delays of probate. We also protect clients from losing control of their own health and financial decisions.

We developed our Unique Self-Guided 19-Point Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection Legal Guide, so you can learn where problems may exist in your planning as well as opportunities for improvement and how to implement a plan to protect your spouse, home, family, and life savings.

Click Here to Download our Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection  Legal Guide

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops to learn more about our process and what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy. To register for a seat at an upcoming workshop call (800) 964-4295 (24/7) or register online at www.SeniorWorkshop.com

 

Tags: massachusetts estate planning strategies, Elder Law, durable power of attorney, elder care, executor, advanced directives, guardianship, conservatorship

Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney | What is an Advance Directive?

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Wed, Aug 08, 2012

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive allows you to communicate your health care preferences when you lose the capacity to make or communicate your own decisions. Advance directives can include power of attorney for health care decisions, living wills, and informal directives people make in letters, conversations, and conduct. An advance directive must be signed while a person still has the mental capacity to sign legal documents.

advance directive, alzheimers

A Supreme Court decision (Cruzan et ux. v. Director, Missouri Department of Health) recognizes that all people have a constitutional right to refuse any medical treatment, including ventilators and feeding tubes. Further, state laws authorize you to name a person to make health care decisions for you when you cannot. Advance directives are documents intended to ensure that your wishes are known and followed. They allow you to state in advance your wishes regarding the use of lifeprolonging procedures. The documents will be more helpful and informative if you discuss your wishes with your family, friends, and health care providers as part of your advance care planning.

The Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions is the most-often used health care directive. It allows you to appoint a person to make health care decisions for you when you are incapacitated and to state your wishes about such issues as life support and organ donation. This document goes into effect only when you cannot make or communicate decisions for yourself.

Once your advance directive is completed, give copies to appropriate individuals such as physicians, family, friends, clergy, and attorney. Discuss the details of your advance directive with these individuals. Ask your physician to make it a part of your permanent medical record. Whenever you are hospitalized, take a copy with you.

Unless you revoke your advance directive, it stays in effect until your death.

What is a durable power of attorney for property/financial decisions?

A durable general power of attorney for property/financial decisions is a legal document wherein one person (the principal) authorizes another (the agent) to act on the principal’s behalf regarding financial decisions. It allows a person to plan for care and control of property in the event he or she becomes incapacitated.

Powers of attorney are the single most important documents to put in place so that a family member or trusted friend will have the legal authority to carry out your wishes if you can no longer speak or act for yourself. Without a power of attorney, if something happens to you that results in your inability to make decisions, your family may later face court proceedings and court supervised guardianship and/or conservatorship.

Some people purchase a “form document” power of attorney from an office supply store or download one from the internet. While these documents legally authorize persons to act on another’s behalf, there are certain things this type of power of attorney document may not address. In fact, the law provides that your agent cannot handle certain matters unless specific wording in the document empowers him or her to do so. Such matters include the power to make gifts on your behalf and the power to remove and /or add assets to a trust. Also, laws vary from state to state and a form document might not address that issue.

These powers can be critical in Alzheimer’s disease planning. That’s why it’s so important to do the documents now, while your loved one still has the capacity to do them. Later on, as the disease progresses, it may be too late, causing great problems for the family.

For care tips as well as other useful information on Alzheimer's disease, download our free Complete Alzheimer's Resource Kit. This breakthrough report reveals the secrets to caring for your loved one with Alzheimer's at any stage --even if you're low on funds or don't know where to begin!

Click Here to Download  The Alzheimer's Resource Kit

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Tags: Alzheimer's Disease, Elder Law, durable power of attorney, elder care, seniors, advanced directives

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