Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Planning to or receiving Social Security or VA Benefits? Get this done now!

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Mon, Apr 27, 2020


documents with elderly parents

Many of you are receiving or will be receiving Social Security or VA benefits. We find that most of the people we help with estate planning and life care planning do not have a Durable Power of Attorney. Let us explain why this is the MOST IMPORTANT to complete now and how it relates to these SSA and Veteran’s Benefits as well.

Your Durable Power of Attorney will allow someone of your choosing to make decisions for you if necessary. There are often a number of critical decisions to be made if and when you are not able to speak for yourself including health, financial and personal. During this pandemic, when family members are not being allowed into hospitals along side their loved ones, it is more important than ever to be prepared. Even if your spouse of child is in touch with doctors and nurses, you need to empower them with this document.

However, there are a few times when even this document will not suffice; Social Security Administration and Veteran’s Affairs. Even if you designate an agent under a power of attorney, a trustee under a trust, or a guardian of your estate, they do not have legal authority to manage federal benefits checks.

Both of these offices require their own designation: Social Security Administration requires a Representative Payee and Veteran Affairs requires a VA Fiduciary.

These designations allow you to choose one or more people to make decisions, move accounts and get answers on your behalf. This is done by contacting the agency directly and make an advance designation. This law was passed in 2018, yet many of our clients come to meet with us not knowing this important information.

This can be done via the SSA website, or by phone (800-772-1213) or in person at a local office. Of course, during this pandemic, SSA offices are closed. To update your VA Fiduciary, contact your local VA Affairs office by clicking here..

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Tags: durable power of attorney, social security, VA benefits, living trusts, Elder Law Attorney, Estate Planning Attorney, covid-19, Heath Care Documents

Due to the Pandemic, Should I Move My Parent/Grandparent?

Posted by The Estate Planning & Asset Protection Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Tue, Apr 07, 2020

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In this difficult time, with the risk to the older population on everyone’s mind, we have been receiving many calls asking us what the best way to protect their loved ones. Should people consider moving their family members to a facility or perhaps move them from a facility into their own home. The answer to this question varies of course as each family’s situations vary. As we approach what medical experts predict will be the apex in the number of new cases, we wanted to go over some items to consider as you contemplate what works best for your family.

If you are considering moving your loved one into your home. The most important detail to consider is whether or not the entire family is able to stay socially distanced. If, however, a family member is part of an “essential business” and continues to be out in public, interacting with others, this could increase the risk of becoming infected. This point is especially a risk if the family member is working in the medical field and therefore coming into contact with infected patients daily. It is also a higher risk if the worker is among the public, working in a supermarket for example. Another question to consider when deciding to move a loved one into your home would be whether or not you have an appropriate area in your home where you could isolate an infected family member if the need arises. This can be challenging when, for example, shared spaces are necessary such as a bathroom that must be sanitized continuously throughout the day.

Another question that comes up is whether or not to move your loved one from one facility to another if you find out their current facility has a known case of Covid-19 on site. This may not be wise, as the virus continues to spread rapidly and puts each facility at risk, so circumstances might change. It is also a difficult time to get thorough information about a potential new facility given that most are currently unwilling to allow outsiders in, which precludes you from touring and meeting with staff and assessing the care your loved one would receive.

What about the type of care your loved one needs? If moving home, would you need to hire an outside aid to assist in their care? This would require yet another person from the outside coming into your home regularly. These outside health aids are another group of front-line workers who are coming into contact with people from various households during their workday. This not only is an added risk to your loved one, but a risk to the entire family as well. Also, keep in mind that the original facility may have policies and concerns about allowing your loved one back into their location once they have been exposed to others, and it may be a complicated process to receive permission to allow your loved on back in.

Financial concerns are also a consideration. If you have the funds to pay for care that’s beneficial. However, if not, the complicated process of applying for Medicaid and awaiting that decision could be impacted if you decide to move your loved one even temporarily. It’s possible your loved one could lose their spot, and these issues would need to be discussed directly with the facility.

We understand these are very difficult times, and very important decisions. As always, our team is here to talk with you and guide you through this. Please reach out, we are here to help protect you and your family.

  • The Estate Planning & Asset Protection Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates


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Tags: power of attorney, lawyer, revocable living trust, applying for medicare, healthcare proxy, living trusts, Estate Planning Attorney, covid-19

Signing Documents During the Covid-19 Crisis

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Thu, Apr 02, 2020


We’re writing this in the midst of a public health emergency the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in over 100 years. The shutdown of nonessential businesses, and the stay at home order by Governor Charlie Baker has caused widespread interruptions, disruptions and has affected everyone in the Commonwealth. 

Given the nature of our practice, we are receiving calls from concerned clients and family members.  We hear from home who have  loved ones in facilities but can’t visit them and are concerned about the spread of the virus there.  We are talking to many each day that are prioritizing long term care and estate planning.   

As we always explain to clients and prospects, the basic legal tools that we use to help clients begin with legal documents: a power of attorney, health care directive, will and often trusts.  The signing of these documents must conform to certain legal requirements.  Most documents require signing in the presence of a notary public, while the will requires two witness and a notary public  (The health care directive can be signed before two witnesses).  

For the overwhelming majority of our clients the signings occur in our office.  On occasion we visit clients at home or in the facilities where they reside if they cannot come to us.  

When Governor Baker signed an executive order directing citizens to stay home and President Trump directed citizens to practice social distancing, we could not conduct these signings in the normal way.  As a result, we temporarily postponed some signing appointments that had been scheduled already, and made alternate “social distancing signings” for others who felt that signing immediately was critical.  This past week, Attorney Greta Atchinson conducted a no-touch signing in the parking lot, with the client in her car, the trustee in another car, and witnesses in yet another car (Greta had an umbrella and her notary stamp). Adding to the difficulty, was the cold, pouring rain. Greta hopes this is the last of the parking lot signings she has to perform in this pandemic. It was critical to our client that she sign her estate plan, and we’re committed to helping our clients.

For the time being we have severely restricted in person meetings.  This is a must for the safety of our clients and employees and in compliance with the law.  But for how much longer?  As I write this President Trump has extended the social distancing requirement for another 30 days until April 30 and Governor Bakers’s order has been extended until May.  Medical experts believe we have not reached the peak of the pandemic yet and this could take us through the summer and beyond.

We do know, unfortunately, that the spread of Covid-19 does not mean that the need for long term care stops.  Our clients and their families still have to solve the problem of getting care for loved ones and paying for it.  Which leads me back to the issue of document signing.  We do not know how long it will take to get back to “business as usual” so we must look for an alternative so we can help clients navigate the long term care process.

Governor Cuomo has temporarily modified New York’s law to permit signing of legal documents to be done via video conferencing.  A bill  “An Act Relative to Remote Notarization During COVID-19 State of Emergency” has been proposed in Massachusetts in both houses of the legislature to allow video conferencing and notarization, but it has not yet been passed.  We ask that you contact your representatives and urge them to pass Bill SD 2882 and HD 4999.  Find your legislator here: and let them know you support remote notarization during this difficult time. 

We are hopeful that the legislature will take action in the next week to pass these bills so that people can safely update and establish vital legal documents.

Questions or Concerns? Email We are here to help you and your family.

Please click here to view our latest update on Covid-19 Emergency Life, Health and Estate Planning Decisions to make right now. 


REGISTER NOW for our FREE discovery webinar:

Life and Estate Planning during the Covid-19 Pandemic  

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*** Attention members of our Lifetime and Legacy Protection Plan, we will be in touch soon with the schedule for our upcoming exclusive series:

Unpacking your Core Values and Creating your Legacy.
What it can mean for you, your life, estate and legacy plan and your Family for generations     
- featuring Dr. Nancy Gaulin, PsyD MBA


Tags: technology, power of attorney, trust, Wills, in home, health, medical, proposed changes, new regulations, healthcare proxy, HIPPA release, covid-19


Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Tue, Mar 31, 2020


19 Point Checkup for Emergency Steps to consider and implement now:

Though it may be hard not to panic when the grocery store shelves are empty, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 keeps rising, and we see sobering statistics across the globe … we will not overcome this challenge with a panicked response.

Nonetheless, there are certain things we all need to be doing right now – and your public health officials are the best resource on how to stay personally safe and help prevent the virus from spreading.

When it comes to the seriousness of this outbreak, however, there also are some critical estate planning decisions you should make – or review – right now.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who will make medical decisions for me should I become severely ill and unable to make these decisions myself?
  2. Who will make my financial decisions in that same situation — for example, who will be authorized to sign my income tax return, write checks or pay my bills online?
  3. Who is authorized to take care of my minor children in the event of my severe illness? What decisions are they authorized to make? How will they absorb the financial burden?
  4. If the unthinkable happens – what arrangements have I made for the care of my minor children, any family members with special needs, my pets or other vulnerable loved ones?
  5. How will my business continue if I were to become seriously ill and unable to work, even remotely … or in the event of my death?
  6. How can I protect my home, spouse and life savings if I needed a nursing home? 

These are the most personal decisions to make right now to protect yourself and your loved ones during this emergency. Now is also a good time to ask yourself if you have plans in place for the smooth transfer of your assets and preservation of your legacy.

We are here for clients as well as friends, family, neighbors and the community in which we live and serve to help you discover where problems exist now as well as your opportunities for improvement. With our unique counseling you will understand the ramifications of your choices, so you are confident to sign your critical life, disability, estate, elder law and asset protection plans with the mandatory legal documents.

ALL OF OUR clients receive a wallet card for 24/7 emergency health care access for who to call in and emergency as well as the electronic 24/7 access to the required legal documents for EMTs and emergency health workers to speak with them on you’re and your family’s behalf. This applies to any one 18 years of age and older. We are currently providing BOTH remote education and counseling discovery sessions conferences for your convenience. Schedule a call now and let us help you make the right choices for yourself and your loved ones.

We are ready to help walk you through these decisions, understand the ramifications of your choices, and memorialize your plans in binding legal documents. We are currently providing BOTH remote discovery education and counseling sessions for your convenience. Schedule your unique 19-point discovery and personal counseling session now.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trusts, Protective Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Massachusetts Estate, Elder Law and Asset Protection Planning, please register today for your personalized discovery and review counseling  sessions at 800-964-4295 or on line at Now is the time   to gain control and peace of mind with your unique 19 Point Trust Estate and Asset Protection Review Discovery Counseling and Protection Process. You will even be eligible for our Lifetime Protection Program, developed and improved over 14 years of service for Massachusetts and Metro West families helping them protect their home, spouse, family, legacy and life savings for generations.

Tags: Estate Planning, Elder Law, Elder Law Attorney, Estate Planning Attorney, covid-19

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