Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Is Your Will Doing What It's Supposed to?

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

Is Your Will Doing What It’s Supposed To Do?

 grandfather

A $500,000 Mistake

Rebecca called after her husband, Peter had died.   She had questions about his will and his 401k.   Rebecca was Peter’s second wife and he had two daughters from his first marriage.  Between his first and second marriages, Peter had designated his daughters as the beneficiaries of his life insurance and 401k and had changed his will to leave everything to them as well.

After they married, Peter changed his will to leave some of his assets, including his $500,000 401k, to Rebecca.  The home he and Rebecca lived in, but which he owned, he left to his daughters, but provided Rebecca with the legal right to live there.  The life insurance he didn’t change.  His daughters remained the beneficiaries.   So just what was the problem?

Rebecca was told by the 401k custodian that Peter never changed the beneficiary designation to her.  As such, she was told, they must pay Peter’s daughters, not Rebecca, despite what the will says.  Understandably, Rebecca didn’t like that answer. This unfortunate result could have been prevented with #3 in our unique 19 Point Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Review.

Wills On Their Own Aren’t Enough

The reason Rebecca couldn’t get the money Peter had meant for her was because wills do not automatically control how all property passes.  The Will only applies to what are called probate assets, those that pass by way of the will.  Non-probate assets, such as retirement accounts and other assets which have beneficiaries designated upon death, are not governed by the will.   That was why Rebecca wasn’t able to get the 401k that Peter had intended for her. For more information on this subject take a look at the Special Bonus Chapter The Biggest Long Term Planning Mistakes in our new book, The 10 Biggest Estate and Asset Protection Planning Mistakes People Make And How to Avoid Them! Available soon on Amazon.com soon

She asked me if I thought a lawsuit could force the 401k custodian to pay the account to her because the will clearly states Peter’s intent to leave it to her.  She even showed me the paragraph in Peter’s will which makes reference to the 401k and his desire to leave it to her.

 

All Too Common A Problem

I told her about a case I had read about several years before which had many similarities to hers.  Just like in Rebecca’s case, a husband had died leaving his 401k to his wife, Sarah, via his will. Also just like Rebecca, Sarah couldn’t collect it and contacted an attorney. Sarah’s attorney filed a lawsuit to try to get a court to order the IRA custodian to pay a surviving spouse even though the beneficiary designation on file named someone else.  Not surprisingly he lost the case because the beneficiary designation trumps the will.  Retirement accounts are referred to as contract property.  There is a contract with the custodian that when you pass away they will pay the beneficiary whom you have designated and if there is none then the company has a predetermined set of beneficiaries (usually the “estate”) that they will pay.

So Now What?

In that other case, the only option Sarah had was to file a malpractice claim against the attorney who drafted the will because he should have known that leaving contract property by way of a will is impossible.  Unfortunately, that was the only option Rebecca had at this point as well.  I couldn’t say whether she had a good malpractice claim.  She would need to speak to an attorney who does that kind of work.  But as far as getting it from the 401k account, I told her she’d lose out on the $500,000, a very costly mistake indeed.

This is why we always tell our clients that a will by itself is never enough on its own. Less experienced attorneys will often make the mistake of listening to this common misconception, and it is their clients who wind up paying the price.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we provide a unique education and counseling process which includes our unique 19 Point Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Review to help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones, click here for more information. We provide clients with a unique 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.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: Estate Planning, trusts, Wills, Beneficiary

Estate and Long Term Care Planning for Women

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Mon, Aug 18, 2014

 

The Unique Challenges in Women Face with Estate Planning

Estate planning for women

Estate and Long Term Care Planning for Women can be different and full of confusing choices. Women are living longer today than ever before, and you will need an estate plan that can protect you from the new challenges arising daily. Let’s look at some of the more common situations below:

Married women tend to be younger than their husbands and tend to be on their own once their husband passes. Many married women let their husbands do all the financial planning, including their estate planning. Unfortunately this leaves many of them confused, or even blindsided by the oncoming costs that can appear with their estate and long term care options. Second marriages can create a whole new set of issues to deal with as well. Children from both marriages must be accounted for and must know what their responsibilities are going to be as well as fairly dividing their inheritance. For your own sake it would be best if you chose exactly who you would want to have power of attorney as well as whom you wish to have as your healthcare proxy. It is also important to update these documents regularly as many institutions do not accept them if they are more than a year old.

Single or childless women may choose to leave their possessions to close friends, relatives or charities. Without a good, up-to-date estate plan however, that won’t happen. Instead a bureaucrat appointed by the state will decide where your worldly goods will go when you’re gone. And for women living with a partner whom they are not legally married to, their partner won’t see one red cent of your estate unless you have an ironclad estate plan stipulating who gets what.

Your documents cannot do you much good unless they have been updated to reflect your current needs and situation. If you have gone through a separation or divorce you probably do not wish for your former partner to inherit your things or be making medical decisions about you. We have seen many cases where this has happened, and it is too late to change anything. Fortunately situations like this can be avoided by simply updating your documents regularly. At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates we provide clients with a unique Lifetime Protection Program to help keep their documents and plans up to date with any changes in their personal, family and health situations.

You must also consider what will happen if you require long term care and make sure there is going to adequate funding for what you may need in the future. Many people have made the mistake of giving away their savings in order to qualify for Medicaid without consulting a professional first. Not only was this unnecessary, they often still do not qualify because they did not plan for their situation ahead of time. Giving away their assets can even create large penalties if you ever need a nursing home. To learn more about some of the other mistakes to watch out for take a look at The Ten Biggest Estate and Asset Protection Mistakes People Make and How to Avoid Them! For a free report based on the book click here.

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.

 

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: health care proxy, Estate Planning, Elder Law, asset protection, long term care, Charitable Giving, Nursing Homes, marriage, Beneficiary, elder care, assisted living, estate, assets, coverage, death benefit, surviving spouse, Estate Planning Recommendations

Do You Have A Support System?|Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Feb 21, 2014

Support, Estate Planning

It’s a growing epidemic, the number of aging Americans who have no one who would naturally be their support system as their health declines and they need assistance.  A New York Times article the other day, titled “The Childless Plan for Their Fading Days”, highlights this problem and what some seniors are doing about it.

In our practice, we’ve seen an increase in single and/or childless seniors who need assistance.  According to a recent  AARP report, nearly 12% of women between 80 and 84 in 2010 had no children.  Coupled with the fact that many of these women are widowed, divorced or never married, they have no natural support system.  Who will step into the roles of financial and healthcare decision makers, when they need it?

This problem will become even more acute when we consider that the baby boomer generation, Americans between the ages of 50 and 68, who make up the largest percentage of the caregivers right now, will themselves need care in the next 20 years.  Here are some numbers to consider.

According to the same AARP report, the number of people ages 45 to 64, the peak caregiving years, is expected to increase 1% between 2010 and 2030.  At the same time, the population of over 80 Americans will increase 79%.  This means the number of potential caregivers per senior who needs care will drop from over 7 to 1 down to 4 to 1.  Add to that statistic the fact that baby boomers, on average, have fewer children than their parents and higher divorce rates.  Many won’t have that “natural” support system.

Where will the replacement come from?  Some will look to nieces and nephews.  But, being more distant relatives, that is often not a suitable solution.  Some will look to ex-spouses.  We’ve seen a number of clients who, while divorced, still live with their ex-spouses and have an emotional and/or financial attachment similar to a married couple.

But, what if that isn’t the case?  According to the New York Times article, some people are looking to communal or co-housing arrangements.  One woman looked to friends in her apartment building and designated them as her agent under power of attorney and health care representative.  Another man is taking the drastic step of moving from his home in California to a kibbutz in Israel that he has visited for years.  A kibbutz is a collective community in which the group cares for the individuals within it as a Socialist type society.

In some cases, people will look to professionals.  Geriatric care managers and daily money managers can be an excellent solution.  Longtime trusted advisors, such as attorneys and accountants are also an option for others.

One thing, however, is clear.  While it is always best to put a plan in place before a crisis hits, it is even more critical for those who don’t have any “natural”  support system.  No one will know what you want and if you don’t have the mental capacity any longer to say, then the legal system, ie. guardianship process, will determine what happens.  And that is not likely to be what you want.

This article can be found here

The New York Times article can be found here

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.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: health care proxy, HIPAA, durable power of attorney, Beneficiary, assisted living, caregiver, 2014, Single

Massachusetts Estate Planning Tips | 3 Estate Planning New Year's Resolutions

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Thu, Jan 10, 2013

The New Year is filled with resolutions: lose weight, save money or plan a vacation, but in the thick of things it is easy to forget about planning ahead as you get a little older.

In this article, we review 3 Estate Planning Resolutions that should be part of everyone's 2013.

You Could Lose Everything  Unless You Act Now

1. Review your beneficiary designations.

While the terms of your Will control the distribution
of your probate property, beneficiary designations determine who will inherit your non-probate
assets. Non-probate assets include brokerage or bank accounts with TOD (“Transfer on Death”) or POD (“Payable on Death”) beneficiaries, life insurance proceeds, assets held in a living trust, property held in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship, etc. The beneficiary designations on these assets are just as important to your estate plan as the naming of beneficiaries in your Will because these beneficiaries will also inherit from your estate.

estate plan, 2013, new year

To conduct your review, identify the beneficiaries you have designated for each asset. If you have married, divorced, had children, or experienced any other significant change in family circumstances, you may wish to alter certain designations. If your current designations leave property outright to a minor or an individual with special needs, you may want to consider protecting those assets for your beneficiaries.  For more information on protecting your beneficiaries' inheritances, call our office at (781) 237-2815.

2. Plan for the disposition of your digital assets.

Sure, you know who will inherit your house and your IRA after you are gone, but what will happen to your emails? The tax records stored on your hard drive? Your Facebook page? The family photos in your Flickr galleries?

If your estate plan fails to address these and other digital assets, your loved ones may have trouble accessing financial accounts or lose precious family memories. Furthermore, failing to close online financial accounts may even expose your estate to the risk of identity theft.

Start by making an inventory of your digital assets then give your loved ones or executor instructions regarding what you would like to happen to each asset. For example, are any of your bills on auto-pay? Should your Facebook page be taken down?

3. Schedule a review of your estate plan.

Generally speaking, it is a good idea to review your estate plan every year. This is particularly
important if you have recently experienced a significant change in circumstances, such as a birth or death in the family, a marriage or divorce, or a change in financial circumstances.

As we move into 2013, it is critically important to schedule a time to have your estate plan reviewed by our team of professionals, to be sure that your spouse, home and life savings will be protected.

 

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 to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your beneficiaries, digital assests, Estate Plan and legacy.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: Estate Planning, Beneficiary, revocable living trust, assets, benefit, 2013, plans, New Year's Resolutions

Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney | Confusion Over Medicare

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Thu, Oct 25, 2012

Confusion Over Medicare Provides Opportunities for Financial Advisers to Help Boomers and Seniors

With so many people now working past 65, clients often ask their financial advisers when they should sign up for Medicare.

As is often the case with complicated government programs, the answer is: It depends.

Generally, anyone who has paid into Social Security and qualifies for Medicare should sign up for Medicare part A at ssa.gov when they turn 65, Part A covers hospitalization costs and is free.Medicare, elder law, attorney

But for those who are still working, deciding whether to sign up for part B, which covers doctor’s visits and outpatient services, is more complicated and involves lifelong penalties if crucial deadlines are missed.

Most beneficiaries are paying about $100 a month for Medicare part B premiums this year, and premiums are likely to increase slightly this year. Affluent retirees – those with annual income of $85,000 or more and married couples with annual income of $170,000 and up - pay even more.

Costs Add Up

Plus there is the added cost of a Medicare supplemental mental-insurance plan to cover the gaps in traditional Medicare, such as deductibles and co-payments, and Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, which also has a surcharge for high-income earners. All those medical costs can add up.

“If you’re not taking into account future health care costs, you are doing your clients a disservice,” said Jay Fettig, president of BATTLE System, an insurance management software firm. “If you don’t offer Medicare as part of a financial plan, you risk losing clients to someone who does.”

Mr. Fettig’s company, whose name is derived from Business Acceleration Technology Through Lead Enrichment, offers a free Medicare Genie service to help individuals and their advisors choose the right Medicare plan for their needs. The tool, available at mynewmedicare.com, matches users with appropriate plans, based on their answers to a few questions, and lists the costs of all providers in their area.

Gather the Facts

Should your client, who is still working, elect to use Medicare or stick with his or her employer’s group health plan?

“There is no quick answer to that,” said Arlie Mann, a Medicare specialist with BATTLE System. “I tell them to gather the facts about their insurance premiums and coverage, and we’ll compare it Medicare,” she said.

For those 65 or older who work for a company with 20 or more employees, the group plan is the primary user, and Medicare is secondary. As long as employees have group coverage from their current employer – or from their spouse’s current employer – they are exempt from the delayed-enrollment penalty that permanently raises their Medicare Part B premium by 10% for every 12-month period that they were eligible for Medicare but didn’t enroll.

An employee with good, affordable group health insurance may want to delay paying for Medicare Part B as long as he or she – or his or her spouse – continues to work.

Cheaper Option

For those with a high-deductible group plan, switching to Medicare may be cheaper, Ms. Mann said. B

But once an individual’s employment ends, he or she has just eight months to sign up for Medicare Part B without a penalty.

This period will run whether or not employees choose to continue to participate in their employer’s health insurance plan through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 for up to 10 months. Those who choose COBRA shouldn’t wait until their COBRA eligibility ends to sign up.

If individuals don’t enroll in Part B during the initial eight months after they stop working, they may have to pay  penalty for the rest of their lives.

The rules are different for people who work for companies with 19 or fewer employees, said Kathryn Votava, president of Goodcare.com, a health care consulting firm that works with individuals and advisers.

Because Medicare is the primary insurer in this case, those who miss the initial enrollment deadline for Medicare Part B, which begins three months afterward, will be hit with the delayed-enrollment penalty. Plus, they may have to wait up to 15 months to sign up for Medicare during the general-enrollment period, which runs from January through March each year.

In the meantime, the employer’s insurance plan, as the secondary insurer, is on the hook for just 20% of the medical costs of individuals, who must cover the remaining 80%.

Ellen Breslow, managing partner at EAB HealthWorks, a health consulting service that works with advisers and business owners, said advisers have a responsibility to lean how to help clients with Medicare issues.

“Although health care would seem outside the scope of an adviser’s area of expertise, the ability to incorporate it into an income management plan can influence an individual’s financial future,” she said.

More information and a questionnaire are available by clicking on the“wealth managers” tab at EABhealthworks.com.

(the above article can be seen in the Investment News newsletter from October 8-12)

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.

We would also like to encourage those concerned about changes as a result of new health care reform as well as incresing long term care costs to read our newest guide, the Seniors' Guide to Health Care Reform and Avoiding Nursing Home Poverty.  You will discover how the Affordable Care Act will impact your health care and the secrets millions of smart families are using to Avoid Nursing Home Poverty!

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(the above article can be seen in the Investment News newsletter from October 8-12)

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Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: Medicare, social security, Retirement, Beneficiary, Massachusetts, Elder Law, insurance, financial, advisers

Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer | 5 Estate-Planning Tasks That You Shouldn't Put Off

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Tue, Oct 16, 2012

Over time, your family will face a number of changes. From when you purchase your first home and your children are born to the time they leave for college and you plan for retirement and beyond, new issues and concerns arise. With proper planning your family will be prepared for life’s changes and challenges.

Please take the time to read this great article by Christine Benz called "5 Estate-Planning Tasks That You Shouldn't Put Off" which addresses estate planning to-dos that should not be placed on the back burner.

5 Estate-Planning Tasks That You Shouldn't Put Off

Here are the key estate-planning to-dos:

Task 1: Update Your Beneficiary Designations
Even if you've never set foot in an attorney's office, you've laid the groundwork for an estate plan if you've filled out beneficiary designation forms for your financial accounts. Those designations, in fact, trump other estate-planning documents when it comes to distributing your assets, so it's worthwhile to periodically review them to make sure they're up-to-date with your current situation--if you've gotten married or divorced, or example. (How would your spouse feel if you inadvertently left your 401(k) account to your brother?) And if you have drafted estate-planning documents such as a will, your attorney should be able to help you review your beneficiary designations to ensure that they sync up with those documents. This article (http://news.morningstar.com/articlenet/article.aspx?id=309885) provides guidance on beneficiary designation dos and don'ts.estate planning, estate-planning, lawyer, Massachusetts

Task 2: Designate Legal Guardians
Here's another step that's important regardless of asset level: Parents of young children should designate legal guardians who will look after their children if the parents should die or otherwise be unable to care for their minor children. Spouses often put off this step because they disagree about guardianship, but it helps if you can focus the discussion on actual child-rearing abilities and willingness to do the job. Don't get hung up on hurting anyone's feelings or bypassing friends or family members who might expect to be your guardians but aren't the best choice. (Naming someone a guardian because you're a guardian for their children isn't a good reason.) Most important, your guardian should be willing and able to take care of your children if the need arises, so an essential step is to discuss the responsibilities with the potential guardian and make sure he or she is on board. You also want your children's guardian to share you and your spouse's values and views on parenting; financial wherewithal should be a consideration, as well. It's also worth noting that it's possible to name two guardians--one to take care of your child's needs on a day-to-day basis and another to supervise the child's financial assets. But that's usually not practical for obvious reasons.

Task 3: Create a Living Will and Last Will and Testament
A living will is another document that's important no matter what your asset level is; it tells your health-care providers and your loved ones how you would like to be cared for if you should become terminally ill and unable to express your wishes yourself. Called a "medical directive" in some states, this document details your views toward life-support equipment. Not to be confused with a living will, a last will and testament details how you'd like your assets and possessions distributed after your death.

Task 4: Draft Powers of Attorney
Estate planning doesn't just relate to death and dying: A basic estate plan should also address what would happen to your affairs if you are still living but incapacitated. A power of attorney is a document that specifies who will handle your affairs if you are unable to do so. You'll need to draft two separate documents: one that names your power of attorney for health-care decisions and another for financial matters (often called a durable power of attorney). The person you entrust with your power of attorney for health care will, ideally, live in close geographic proximity to you and will also understand your general wishes about your own health care. The person who you name on your durable power of attorney form should be detail-oriented and comfortable with financial matters, and he or she should also have a general understanding about your attitudes toward and goals for your money.

Task 5: Name an Executor
Your executor will gather all of your assets after you're gone and make sure they are distributed in accordance with your will. Ideally, your executor will be someone who's comfortable with numbers and good with details, and will also be able to find the time to work on your estate. It's common to name family members as executors, but in more complicated situations it might be preferable to use a professional, such as a bank trust officer, to serve as your executor. It's a good idea to tell your executor that you've named him or her, and also provide details on how to obtain access to important documents, such as your will and a master directory detailing all of your accounts.

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.

Register Now and receive a free Unique Self-Guided 19-Point Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection Legal Guide with accompanying DVD!


 

 

Tags: power of attorney, living will, Estate Planning, Beneficiary, executor, Elder Law, lawyer, legal guardians, testament

Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney | The Revocable Living Trust

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Sep 14, 2012

The Revocable Living Trust... how can it help you protect your assets?

At the Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center, we receive lots of questions about Revocable Living Trusts. Most people have heard about them, but very few actually understand what they are.revocable living trust, revocable trust, wills

A Revocable Living Trust is a legal document that includes instructions regarding what should be done with your assets when you die. Now, you may be thinking – isn’t that what a Will does? Yes, that’s exactly what a Will does; however, the key difference between a Will and a Trust is that a Trust prevents the assets in the Trust from being probated (tied up in the court system) at your death – a Will does not.

Revocable Living Trusts are not the only way to avoid probate. Jointly titling your assets or designating beneficiary designations are two other commonly-used methods of avoiding probate. While joint ownership and/or beneficiary designations may be appropriate in certain cases, there are other situations where having your assets in a Trust is the best course of action.

Trusts are not nearly as complicated as many people believe them to be. The first step is to meet with an attorney who is experienced in drafting Revocable Living Trusts and who can explain the process to you. You will become the Grantor of the Trust – meaning the Trust belongs to you and only you can make changes to your Trust. You will also need someone as Trustee to manage the assets in your Trust. You can be your own Trustee or designate someone else (a family member, friend, or corporate trustee like a bank) to serve as Trustee. Finally, you will designate beneficiaries—people or organizations who will receive your assets when you die.

This is where a Trust is extremely useful. For example, you may have three adult children and you may want all of your assets to pass in equal shares to the three kids upon your death, and should one of your children die before you do, you want his share to go to his kids. This can easily be accomplished with a Trust but would not be possible by naming the three kids as joint owners on your assets nor would it be possible by naming the three kids as beneficiaries.

This is just one example of the potential benefit of using a Revocable Living Trust to avoid probate. Revocable Living Trusts are also helpful should your desired method of distribution be more complicated. For instance, you may want a portion of your assets to go to your grandchildren, but perhaps they are all teenagers right now. You could set up your Trust such that your grandchildren won’t receive their share of the assets until they each reach the age of 25. On the other hand,  you may have an adult daughter with a developmental disability who won’t be able to manage her share of the assets upon your death. In that case, you may choose to have her share of the assets continue to be help by the Trust after your death so the Trustee can mange her share for her.

Situations like the two just mentioned can only be handled through a Revocable Living Trust –they cannot be accomplished through joint tenancy or beneficiary designations.

One last point –a Trust by itself is worthless unless the Trust has been funded. Once the Trust document is drawn up according to your wishes and has been signed, you must transfer your assets into the Trust. This means you will need to re-title your assets, such as real estate, stocks and CD’s in the name of your Trust.

Though having a Revocable Living Trust in place can help you simplify the administration of your financial affairs after your death and ensure your wishes are carried out, there are a lot of issues to consider when deciding if a Trust is right for you.

Research shows that 86% of trusts don’t work.  That’s why 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: Estate Planning, probate, Elder Law, asset protection, Beneficiary, Massachusetts, revocable living trust, Wills

Review Your Estate Plans Regularly | Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Mon, Aug 13, 2012

There are many reasons why it is crucial to have your estate plan reviewed. A proper estate plan must be modified to account for legal and tax changes, as well as life changes.

"While certain basic principles have held true over the years, new strategies are constantly developed and legislative changes alter the law and how it is applied. Proper estate planning is rarely a one-time event. Besides accounting for legal changes, the plan must be modified to account for life changes — birth, death, divorce, finances and health" -- Bonnie Kraham, Elder Law Attorney

 

estateplan family

"There is a tendency to view elder law estate planning as a static process resulting in a permanent portfolio. Both are misconceptions.

While certain basic principles have held true over the years, new strategies are constantly developed and legislative changes alter the law and how it is applied. Proper estate planning is rarely a one-time event. Besides accounting for legal changes, the plan must be modified to account for life changes — birth, death, divorce, finances and health.

Also, when a plan is created poorly the first time, often by those without direct experience in this area of the law, it is often necessary for those more experienced in elder law estate planning to fix the "broken" plan.

One of the more common errors we see is a purported MAPT, a Medicaid asset protection trust, that does not comply with Medicaid law. Sometimes, such a trust states that the grantors (Mom and/or Dad) are also the trustees, which is not allowed. Other times, the trust gives the grantors access to principal in trust assets. This also is not allowed.

The common fix for a defective MAPT is creating a new one that follows the law: The grantors may not be trustees, and the grantors have a right to income only from trust assets. They have no right to principal. The downside of starting over is that the five-year "look-back" period must lapse before the assets in the trust are protected. However, the current situation must be assessed to determine if the new MAPT makes sense.

Even the best of plans may be obsolete by the time they are needed, sometimes many years later. At a minimum, an estate plan should be reviewed every three years to see if any life or law changes affect it.

Over time, clients may want to change their backup trustees or plan of asset distribution. They may wish to add inheritance trusts to keep assets in the family. They might wish to change from a revocable trust to the MAPT because they were unable or unwilling to obtain adequate long-term care insurance. Assets for married couples may have grown to more than $1 million and the couple may need estate tax protection.

A systematic updating approach allows the client to have a plan better suited to their current needs. Periodic review reduces the chance of broken elder law estate plans.

If you're competent, you can always update your plan by either amending a trust or signing a new will, power of attorney or health care proxy.

If you are not competent but have an elder law power of attorney with broad gifting powers, your agent under the power of attorney may create, amend or revoke a trust, and make other changes in your best interest, including protecting assets from nursing home costs. The goal is to avoid the last resort, which is a court proceeding to fix a broken plan, or worse, having a plan whose purpose is defeated."

Article Reference:
"Protecting Your Future: Revise Estate Plans Regularly to Meet Needs" by Bonnie Kraham
Link: http://www.recordonline.com

 

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.

Research shows that 86% of trusts don’t work.  That’s why 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: power of attorney, health care proxy, HIPAA, Estate Planning, probate, Protective Trusts, Nursing Home Costs, Elder Law, Medicaid, Nursing Homes, durable power of attorney, Beneficiary, elder care, seniors, estate, estate tax

What Does the Health Care Ruling Mean for Seniors on Medicare? | Boston Elder Law Attorney

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Aug 03, 2012

"The New Health Care Ruling  is great news for seniors on Medicare,” according to Paul Nathanson, executive director of the National Senior Citizens Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group, said after the Supreme Court issued its ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. This was reported recently in the New York Times by Paula Span who reports more on a recent  study is available at  GlobalAging.org.

medicare doctor


Because several key provisions involving Medicare kicked in soon after Congress passed the bill in 2010, many beneficiaries won’t see big changes in their coverage now. But those improvements could have evaporated had the law been overturned, so the ruling generated sighs of relief among advocacy organizations for older adults.


This means the annual free wellness exam will continue (about 2.2 million people took advantage of it last year, according to AARP), along with the first “Welcome to Medicare” visit, which will remain free, with no out-of-pocket costs.

A number of preventive services, including mammograms, bone scans and depression and diabetes screenings, used to involve deductibles and co-pays; under the Affordable Care Act, they no longer do.

And the gradual closing of the dread “doughnut hole” gap in Part D drug coverage by 2020 will proceed, bolstered by discounts that have already lowered drug costs. “The average Medicare beneficiary will continue to save an average $650 a year,” Max Richtman, who leads the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in Thursday’s teleconference. “That’s real money, especially for seniors.”

On the long-term care front, the court’s action preserves several initiatives advancing efforts to support elderly and disabled people in their homes, rather than in nursing homes.

Several are already under way, including the Community First Choice Option, which assists states with the costs of in-home programs for people who would otherwise be institutionalized, and the Balancing Incentive Program, which increases federal matching Medicaid funds in states with less coverage for home and community services.

And starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will help husbands and wives hold onto more of their assets if a spouse must spend down to qualify for Medicaid.

Provisions that strengthen efforts to cut Medicare abuse and fraud will survive as well. And if the economics work as the Obama administration planned — a fairly big if — Medicare as a whole stays solvent longer.

One murky question concerns Medicaid, and the court’s ruling that states that don’t agree to expand their coverage can’t be penalized by losing their current financing. This could affect millions of people, but “we’re not exactly sure of all the ramifications,” Mr. Nathanson acknowledged.

Many states might agree to the expansion anyway, said Kevin Prindiville, deputy director of the National Senior Citizens Law Center. “The states get a great deal,” he said. “The feds pick up most of the costs.”

Amid the general applause from advocates for the elderly, several leaders said they foresaw ongoing Medicaid tussles with Congress and state governments. But for now, they were all smiles.

“A great win,” Mr. Prindiville said. “The act is going to improve health for seniors in a variety of ways.

 

For more information, you can gain free online access to the “Seniors’ Guide to Health Care Reform & Avoiding Nursing Home Poverty” which contains secret benefits revealed by the Affordable Care Act.

Click Here to Download the Senior & Boomers Guide to Health Care Reform & Avoiding  Nursing Home Poverty

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 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: Medicare, Health Care, Beneficiary, elder care, seniors, health Care act, Health Care Ruling

Discuss These Estate Plan Topics With Your Children

Posted by Wellesley Estate Planning Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Thu, Jun 07, 2012

LINK: http://www.yoursmartmoneymoves.com/2012/05/31/what-four-estate-planning-things-parents-should-tell-their-children/

From Your Smart Money Moves (May 31, 2012) “What Four Estate Planning Things Parents Should Tell Their Children”

1. Who is the executor of the estate?  If you have a will set up, it’s important to tell which child or children are the executors of your estate.  Inevitably, they should know where is your will is stored.  It is in a safe deposit box?  It is somewhere at the house?  Or, what’s the name of the attorney that has the will on file?  As the executors of the estate, they’re the ones that are going to be responsible for the orderly administration of all of your assets.  So it’s important to at least let them know that they are the executors. Sometimes, kids don’t want this responsibility. This doesn’t mean you need to talk about how much money you have, but you should be able to let them know that they will be the ones that will be helping to administer the estate down the road.

Estate Planning, Family, Loved One, Asset Protection, Long-Term Care2. What’s the game plan for long term care?  This is one that parents will avoid all day long due to the challenging nature of the question.  Many parents that hit the age of 60, 65, or 70, may or may not have nursing home insurance.  If they don’t have long term care insurance, one of the questions they should be discussing with you is who might be available to help in the future.  Sometimes, the kids want to pay for long term care insurance if in fact the parents cannot afford it themselves.  You may think it’s your middle daughter or you may think it’s going to be your youngest son that will take care of you.  The kids may have thoughts themselves about who’s going to do what or worse yet they may have not talked at all.  So it’s important to have some discussion that if something happens your children have some idea of how the chain of command and responsibilities will roll down at that time.  I had an uncle of mine that unfortunately went into a nursing home and wiped out their entire financial situation.  This is a quality discussion to have as a family.

3. Advanced Medical Directive / Living Will?  You should talk to your kids about whether you have a living will or an advanced medical directive as part of your overall estate planning.  Letting your children know these types of things and if you are an organ donor can at least prepare your children for your wishes somewhere down the road.  You may be uncertain about your wishes if you had some tragic situation that actually put you on some sort of thing that’s keeping your life going.  And if you’ve already pre-made decisions about what’s going to happen, that would be an important thing to share with them.

4. Where Is Everything Located?  I’ve yet to see someone pass away without the family having to deal with some level of mystery on where documents, collectibles, or bank accounts are located.  With today’s technology, getting your finances organized in an electronic account aggregation type software or at least collecting all of your documents in one place with instructions on where everything is located will be important for your children.   Often, families can have a major struggle over personal possessions especially if one member of the family has more knowledge than another including brothers and sisters as well as children.  The goal of doing this isn’t to share your financial picture, but merely give your family a go to person or a location so things can be sorted out easily in the event of a premature death.

As a parent you don’t have to discuss money, your net worth, or what’s happening with your overall budget.  Many parents don’t want to be a burden on their children or they don’t want their children counting on a future inheritance.   Make sure to discuss with your kids these important points so at least they can take the opportunity to discuss and plan their own lives to best support you and your overall estate plan.

For more information on estate planning, asset protection, and elder law we invite you to attend one of our free Trust, Estate, and Asset Protection Workshops.  Register online at www.MASeniorWorkshop.com or by calling (800) 964-4295 (24/7).  At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center we help families protect what matters most: their spouse, home, and life savings, from the rising cost of medical and nursing home care.  Did you know that resaerch shows that 86% of estate plans DO NOT WORK.  Research conducted by a colleague with more than 30,000 clients demonstrated the need to review plans.  To help people evaluate the areas in which an existing plan meets a family’s goals and objectives and where significant problems may exist we have developed the 19-Point Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Guide

 

Tags: power of attorney, Estate Planning, probate, Estate Planning, asset protection, long term care, gifts, gift tax, family, Beneficiary, Estate Planning Tip, elder care, estate, executor, disinherit, estate tax, estate tax savings

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