Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

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

Can Your Will Protect You When You Don't Die?

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Thu, Aug 07, 2014

 

What Happens When You Don’t Die?

medicare, medicaid, wills, spouse

 

Is your “I love you” will capable of protecting you or your spouse from long-term care costs?

You know the kinds of wills we’re talking about: The husband leaves everything to the wife, the wife leaves everything to the husband and after they both die, everything goes to the kids. This works well in situations where the spouses are healthy one day and are deceased the next. 

However, as most of us know, life usually doesn’t work that way very often. Research indicates that nearly 70% of individuals over 65 will require some kind of long-term care in their lifetimes.

Thus, many spouses worry that if they predecease an ill spouse who is currently in a nursing home or will require long-term care at some point in the near future, there will be insufficient funds available to provide for their institutionalized spouses’ needs. This is an especially relevant concern for expenses that are not covered under Medicaid such as: care managers, private nurses, single rooms, as well as certain therapies and drugs.

Another concern is that the availability of funds from “I love you” wills and trusts will disqualify the surviving ill spouse from eligibility for Medicare benefits. As you know from prior articles, Medicare (MassHealth in Massachusetts) is the only long-term-care governmental program in the United States and does not cover long-term custodial care.

To solve this problem many of our clients rely on a “testamentary trust”. This is a trust built into the will of each spouse. For many estate planners, this is counterintuitive because much of the estate planning occurs within the context of a revocable living trust. In order to preserve access to Medicaid eligibility without requiring that the surviving spouse spend down the assets and lose the chance to maintain a “rainy day fund”, creating a testamentary trust in the will of the pre-deceasing spouse is essential.

What this means is that around age 55, you have to completely revise your wills and trusts to accommodate a different paradigm of thought. The thinking process is no longer “What happens when I die?” Now the question becomes “What happens if I don’t die and live a long time with expensive long-term care?”

The new paradigm requires a new estate plan. If you consider yourself middle-class (meaning that your net worth will be significantly impacted by the cost of long-term care for you and/or your spouse) and are over age 55, we suggest that you revise and update your estate plan to reflect your current and future needs as soon as possible.

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: will, living will, Estate Planning, Estate Planning, Alzheimer's Disease, Elder Law, asset protection, long term care, Medicaid, in-home care, Health Care, estate reduction, estate, elder care journey, hospice, Alzheimers Disease, medicaid qualification, Wills, assets, Medicaid penalties, alzheimer's activities, in home, incapacity, Elder Law, Attorney, myths, Alzheimer's, alzheimers, financial, Attorney, income, Alzheimer's, federal, health, surviving spouse, in-home care, long term care insurance

Great News About Long Term Care Planning for You and Your Loved Ones

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Aug 01, 2014

More Good News: Estate Planning and Long-Term Care Planning

 Medicare family

Our firm has helped people and their families with long-term care planning for more than 20 years. While helping people, it is very important to help focus  on the health, long term care and estate and life planning needs for the individual and family. This is a holistic approach that helps families plan for obtaining the best quality care in their home, the community or perhaps assited living. Many people we help are also concerned  about the devastating cost of a Medicaid spend down of assets due to a long-term nursing home stay.

 

We have also had other success in Medicaid crisis planning relying on other strategies that are available in Massachusetts law,unlike some other states, that allow  citizens to pay part of their costs with their assets and eventually qualify for long-term care assistance to the Medicaid program.

 

Some people also have a long-term care insurance policy to help pay fort care at home, in the community and many times their plan will even will provide a care coordinator. Thus, we do recommend you contact your insurance advisor to look into the possibility of obtaining long-term care insurance while you can still qualify under medical underwriting.

 

If any of these topics concern or interest you please contact our office at 781-237-2815 to consult with our attorneys or request a copy of our Seniors and Boomers Guide to Health Care Reform & Avoiding Nursing Home Poverty for $14.95 or is available from www.DSullivan.com. We would be happy to be your guides on your Estate Planning/Elder Care journey.

 

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: Estate Planning, Estate Planning, Elder Law, asset protection, long term care, Medicare, durable power of attorney, estate reduction, Estate Planning Tip, estate, estate tax, Massachusetts, senior, Medicare, asset, Estate Planning Recommendations, Dennis Sullivan, long term care insurance

Happy Holidays From Dennis Sullivan & Associates

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Dec 20, 2013

Happy Holidays, Estate Planning
Happy Holidays
Don%27t forget

 

How You and Your Loves Ones will benefit from the Special Features of your plan from the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center

  • The Unique "Personal Asset Trust" (enhanced protection for your beneficiaries' inheritance from the claims of spouses and creditors, lawsuits, loss of government benefits, and estate taxes when they pass down their inheritance)

  • Unusual Flexibility (your Trust can adapt after your disabled or gone, to the changed needs and circumstances of you and your beneficiaries and to change in the laws-to help ensure your Trust carries out your original intent)

  • Often Overlooked HIPAA Provisions (so your spouse and other Successor Trustees won't be forced into court to gain access to your important medical information when you become ill or disabled  and important financial  and medical decisions need to be made right away)

  • The MassHealth "Trap Door" (The tools your Trustee may need to qualify you more quickly for government nursing care benefits should you ever need them, possibly without requiring your family to later pay them back, please note this planning must be coordinated well in advance)

  • The Lifetime Protection Program (free phone calls, follow-up notices, special invitation members only events, review meeting every year with you and your Successor Trustee, if you wish to invite them, to be sure your plan is properly maintained and carried out)

  • The Owners Manual (including everything you need to properly understand and implement your trust plan, such as a Trust Flow Chart, Funding Instructions, Location and Contacts List, Personal Property Memorandum)

  •  The Trustee Manual (so your spouse or other Successor Trustee knows exactly, step-by-step, what to do and not to do, if you become ill,disabled or pass away)

  • Veteran's Benefit Planning (for qualified veterans including free application coordination, which may be helpful for in-home care or assisted living facility expenses)

  •  The Beneficiary Manual (so your beneficiaries may properly "drive" their Personal Asset Trust "vehicles" to maximize its protective benefits)

  • The Health Document Emergency Card (so you know your Health Care Decision Documents will always be readily available if you're rushed to a hospital)

  • The Trust ID Card (so you can be sure to properly get and keep your assets in your Trust and avoid costly Court conservatorship and probate proceedings)

 Below is a way to help spread holiday cheer this year! Here's a recipe that every generation will have fun making!

Cocoa Thumbprints

Recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine

Total Time: 1 hr 15 min
Prep: 1 hr 0 min
Cook: 15 min
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies
Level: Easy


Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
Sprinkles, mini marshmallows, mini candies or dried fruit, for filling

Directions
Whisk the flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and eggs and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Place the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in 2 separate small bowls. Roll scant tablespoonfuls of dough into balls; roll in the granulated sugar and then in the confectioners' sugar. Place 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Lightly flatten each ball with your fingers and make a deep 1/2-inch-wide indentation in the centers with your thumb. Place your choice of filling in the indentation.

Bake the cookies until puffed and slightly cracked, about 10 minutes. Let cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

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

Recipe: Here

 

 

 

Tags: Estate Planning, trusts, Estate Planning, Estate Planning Tip, estate, VA benefit, Estate Planning Recommendations, 2014, Dennis Sullivan

I am Power of Attorney...Now What Do I Do? | Massachusetts Alzheimer's Attorney

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Wed, Dec 11, 2013

 

Alzhiemer's, Power of Attorney

Recently, I was asked to serve as agent under Power of Attorney for husband and wife clients.  We’ll call them Sam and Abigail.  Both are in their 80’s and just moved to a nursing facility.  As their legal representative, I will be doing the types of things that, as an elder care attorney, I so often advise our clients’ family members who serve in that role.  So I thought I would share with you the process that I am working through and the steps I now am, and will in the coming months, take to insure that Sam and Abigail are well cared for.

First, let me give you a bit of background.  Sam and Abigail live in a modest home which they told me they have owned for 50 years.  They have no children or family that they are close with.  Both are physically unable to navigate the stairs in their home or even leave their home without assistance.  But, my job is made easier because the reason they need nursing home care is because of their physical ailments, not mental ones.  Although at times their memory is a bit faulty they both were able to answer my questions and provide me with the information and documents I need to help them.

The first step was to have them both execute very specific powers of attorney that will allow me to conduct the transactions I will need to transition them to a nursing facility, pay their bills, sell their home and eventually ,if they outlive their funds, apply for Medicaid benefits on their behalf.  That document will be absolutely critical to my ability to help them.

When I visited their home, it was immediately clear why they could no longer remain there.  Sam was confined to a room downstairs that was converted to a bedroom.  Abigail still slept upstairs but I couldn’t imagine how she was able to make it up the stairs.  The home was in disarray.  Papers, clothing and other items were stacked or lying about everywhere.  It was obvious that the upkeep of a home was no longer within their capabilities.  And they knew it too.  The nursing facility was coming the next day to move them.

While visiting them in their home I wanted to take the opportunity to gather as much information about them as I could.  I asked Sam if he has a safe deposit box and if so what he keeps there.  He told me he and Abigail keep a box at the bank down the street from them.  That is where they keep their will and deed to their home.  It’s also possible there are other papers in the box that we’ll need so I was hoping he would remember where, in his home, he keeps the key to the box.  Luckily, he knew exactly where and directed me to it.

I asked about other assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and insurance policies.  He and Abigail both told me that they had bank accounts at three different banks totaling approximately $100,000 and that’s it.  They could only show me a single statement for one of the accounts, claiming that they discard the statements rather than save them.

I looked around and saw stacks of old papers, some going back 30 years or more.  There was only so much ground I could cover with them in a single visit.  I knew I would need to come back to the home another day so I focused my inquiries on their means of record keeping, where in the home.  At the conclusion of our meeting they gave me a key to their home.

Sam and Abigail settled in well in the facility a few days after I met with them.   Next time I’ll tell you about my second visit to their home, what I was looking for and what I found.

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: power of attorney, Estate Planning, Estate Planning, estate, 2013, 2014

Did You Think Medicare Would Pay For That? | Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Mon, Dec 09, 2013

Rehab, Mass, Masshealth

 

Many people think that Medicare will pick up the tab for most of your rehabilitation, but it doesn't always. Read below to find out more!

A common problem we often see occurs when someone goes into the hospital for surgery and then goes immediately to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) for rehabilitation (rehab).

Most people assume that the rehab stay in the skilled nursing facility will be covered by Medicare. Unfortunately that is not necessarily the case.

 The Medicare rule is that a patient must spend at least three consecutive days, meaning three midnight stays, in a hospital as an inpatient on admitted status in order to qualify for Medicare coverage for the subsequent rehab stay in a SNF.

 Unfortunately, patients may be classified as outpatient on observation status in the hospital and fail to achieve the three day inpatient stay to qualify for subsequent SNF Medicare coverage even though they are in a hospital bed for multiple days and the care they receive is indistinguishable from admitted patient care.  Observation status does not equal admitted status.

 Talk to your admitting physician. Determine whether or not your procedure will qualify as an admitted patient procedure. We have been told that sometimes your doctor may have some discretion to put you on admitted status (and not observation status) depending on the rules that he or she must abide by to comply with Medicare.

 If your doctor has any discretion in this area then he must give you the proper coding and admitted status before you leave the hospital, because after you leave, the record becomes permanent and cannot be changed.

 And a recent October 1, 2013 CMS rule unfortunately does not help Medicare beneficiaries. The new rule indicates that a two midnight standard set out in the new regulations is simply a tool for physicians to apply in making an inpatient admission decisions. Thus, if your doctor believes that you will require at least two midnights in the hospital, your doctor should admit you to admission status. But, you as the patient will continue to need three midnights on admission status to qualify for Medicare coverage in the subsequent SNF rehab stay.

 Sound confusing? It is.

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: Estate Planning, Estate Planning, Medicare, Medicaid, MassHealth, estate, Medicare, 2013, 2014

Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney | Year End Gifting Strategies for Your Estate

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

Gifting and other estate tax reduction strategies have been at the forefront of many estate planning discussions as we approach the holidays due to the uncertainty over the estate and gift tax rules for next year. While current Federal estate and gift tax rates have been relatively favorable, much less favorable rules are set to go into effect in January. gifting, estate, planning, holidays

Currently, the federal estate and gift tax exemption is $5.12 million, meaning those with estates worth less than that, or who give away less than that, will not pay Federal estate or gift taxes (the Massachusetts exemption is $1M). The tax rate on estates and gifts above the exemption is a flat 35 percent.

However, unless Congress and the President can agree on a compromise, the Federal estate and gift tax exemption will be reduced to the $1 million credit that was in effect before the Bush tax cuts were enacted. Simultaneously, the maximum estate and gift tax rate will rise to 55 percent.

Gifting Opportunities for Your Estate

Nevertheless, many people are getting ready to make gifts to their loved ones to help reduce their estates. This is because, regardless of what Congress does, you should still be able to rely on the annual gift tax exclusion to shelter lifetime transfers to family members and loved ones. The annual gift tax exclusion hasn’t been affected by other tax law modifications over the last decade and that isn’t expected to change. By systematically giving gifts that qualify for the exclusion, you can gradually reduce the size of your taxable estate over time, thereby reducing your potential estate tax liability.

The current annual gift tax exclusion is $13,000, and it will increase to $14,000 in 2013. You can give gifts of cash or property to an unlimited number of recipients up to this amount each year without any gift tax consequences. The annual exclusion is doubled for joint gifts made by a married couple, although you must file a gift tax return for these joint gifts.

Other gifting opportunities include paying for a loved one’s medical or educational expenses: No gift taxes are imposed on amounts used to pay these costs for another person as long as the bills are paid directly to the provider or institution.

Creating a Planned Gifting Program

In addition to the annual gift exclusions, you can also reduce your taxable estate by bestowing sizeable gifts on as many family members as you desire over a given period of time to reduce your estate tax exposure.

For example, a couple who own $2 million in assets and three adult children could give $28,000 to each child each year for the next five years. By the end of the five-year period, they will have reduced their joint estate by $1.4 million, leaving as estate worth $600,000 (plus earnings in the interim). This would eliminate their exposure to both state and Federal estate taxes. Gifts could be made into an irrevocable trust in order to get assets out of your estate but not subject them to your heirs’ creditors and manage their spending.

However, you must be careful when considering gifting highly appreciated assets such as real estate or stock, as they may expose your beneficiary to capital gains taxes. Gifting through a trust can avoid this outcome as well.

To explore how gifting may benefit your estate, contact The Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates

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 the 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: gifts, gift tax, estate, taxes, gifting, Massachusetts, tax, Attorney, trust, holiday, federal, exclusions

Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney | What Happens To Your Pet After You Are Gone?

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Mon, Oct 22, 2012

What happens to your pet after you are gone? This is a frequently asked question amongst our clients. Just last week, one client asked us what would happen to their dog, Sophie, when they pass away. We discussed setting up a pet trust and choosing a pet guardian to ensure that Sophie would be provided for. Please take the time to read the following article by Deborah Jacobs about the several ways you can provide for your beloved pet, even after you are gone.

If You Love Your Dog (Or Cat or Gerbil), Read This

by Deborah Jacobs

Link:Forbes.com

pet trust, guardian, elder law, Massachusetts

Whether your pet is a rescue you adopted for nothing or a purebred with a street value of many thousands, you can’t put a price tag on what it’s worth to you. So you ought to take steps to provide for this family member after you are gone–just as you would for any other. There are a couple of ways to do this, which can be used alone or in combination with each other.

Set up a trust. The tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who died in 1993, included a paragraph in her will with detailed instructions about who should become the owner of whatever dog lived at her Beverly Hills home when she died (her first choice was the caretaker of the house). Duke also created a $100,000 trust to cover her pet’s food, medical bills and other expenses.

More famously, Leona Helmsley set up a $12 million trust to benefit her dog, Trouble. After Helmsley died in 2007, two of her grandchildren, whom she had disinherited, challenged the arrangement. They persuaded the court to reduce the trust to $2 million and walked away with $3 million apiece. The other $4 million went to a charitable trust that Helmsley and her husband Harry had set up. (Trouble died last year.)

Such trusts (funded with much smaller sums) have become increasingly popular, and can be done in all states, says Gerry W. Beyer, a professor at Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock, TX and co-author of the book, “Fat Cats And Lucky Dogs: How To Leave (Some Of) Your Estate To Your Pet.”

Creating and administering pet trusts involves many of the same issues that arise with other types of trusts, including how to fund the trust, whether it should take effect while you are still alive (for example, if you are no longer able to care for your pet) and whom to choose as trustee. You will also want to identify the caregiver (include alternates in case the person you have in mind cannot do it), ideally someone other than the trustee. Include care instructions, and indicate what should happen to the funds after your pet dies.

Choose a pet guardian. A simpler approach is to designate in your will the person to care for your pet, and leave that individual enough money to carry out the responsibility. This raises two potential pitfalls: the amount could be subject to estate tax and there’s no legal mechanism for making sure things go as you planned. Nor is there any guarantee that the person will want your pet or be able to care for it when time comes.

In response to this problem, a growing number of for-profit and not-for-profit pet guardian programs have sprung up around the country. Beyer, who keeps a list of about 75 organizations providing animal care after an owner’s death but has not vetted the programs, says that some are shelters or re-homing organizations that are specific to certain types of animals – such as birds, farm animals or dogs. Among the best are those run by university veterinary schools or connected with local humane societies, he says.

Pet guardian programs are terrific for people who don’t have a specific person in mind or need to name an alternate on their pet trust if the caregivers they have listed are unable or unwilling to serve. Or, you can combine the two concepts, and put the animal care organization in charge of your pet’s care, while naming the trustee to oversee it and control the money.

Guardian programs are also great if you have a pet like a bird or a tortoise that has long life expectancy–longer than any human beings whom you trust, Beyer says. These programs might also be well suited to finding a home for exotic pets like pigs and llamas.

Two years ago, for example, the 100-year-old Seattle Humane Society set up a pet Guardian program known informally as “Puppies In Probate.” (Under Washington law, animals are treated as property, so this reference to the process by which a will is submitted for the court’s approval before assets are distributed is particularly apt. ) The idea came up after donors who were planning to benefit the Humane Society through their estate plans inquired about the possibility of a program that would help find a new home for their pets. In addition to dogs and cats, the program covers “pocket pets,” such as bunnies, gerbils, and mice), says David Loewe, the CEO.

Several months ago, Teri Persen, 72, enrolled Button–her 12-year-old Coton de Tulear. Persen, who lives alone and whose family lives out of the area, says she didn’t want to burden her friends. “I see too many people stuck with animals – not knowing what to do, feeling guilty if they tried to find another home or turned it into a shelter,” she says. “I didn’t want to put anyone in that position.”

So far more than 20 other people have signed up for the Seattle program, and paid the $1,000 enrollment fee, though none have met their demise. But the program is an extension of a service the Humane Society already provides, finding homes for strays and abandoned pets. Depending on their medical condition and potential behavior issues, animals may either go directly from the shelter into a new home, or first pass through foster care for 30-60 days with an experienced animal lover who is especially sensitive to their needs, Loewe says.

In choosing a facility, here are issues to consider:

What’s the rep? Visit the facility, just as you would if you were putting a relative in a nursing home. Ask the local humane society about the organization’s reputation.Check for complaints on the Internet and through the local Better Business Bureau.

What will it cost? Some programs require you to create a mini endowment, either during your life or through your estate plan. Programs that are set up to take animals from around the country tend to charge more.

What are the screening criteria? Your pet may have a special place in your heart, but if he is a furniture scratcher, or sometimes has an accident in the house, that could work against him in finding a new home.

Is it a fit for your pet? When you pass away, you’ve turned over responsibility for your pet. You want to make sure that the organization’s mission fits with what your animal needs.

What’s the track record? Your goal here is to find out what percentage of animals are placed into a new home and what happens to those that aren’t. (Chances are they will be euthanized.) Loewe recommends you ask not only, “What is your save rate?”(the number of animals that go from intake to adoption) but also “What is your save rate philosophy?” The answers will give you some idea of why an animal might not be adoptable at that shelter — for example, because of a medical or behavioral issue.

One final piece of advice: In addition to expressing your wishes in estate planning documents, communicate them to friends, family and financial advisors. Otherwise, by the time they locate the relevant documents, it may already be too late to save Fluffy or Rover.

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: will, Estate Planning, probate, asset protection, estate, Massachusetts, Attorney, trust, pet, pets, guardian

Seniors Behind the Wheel | Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Thu, Sep 06, 2012

Driving is always a sticky issue with aging parents and family members.  Mom or Dad’s refusal to acknowledge physical and mental limitations can put their lives at risk but if they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle they can put others at risk.  A recent New Jersey wrongful death lawsuit caught my eye.  It’s a nightmare scenario for every family.seniors driving

Steve was driving himself and his caregiver, Mona, to the diner.  Mona got out of the car before Steve attempted to park.  He stepped on the gas a little too hard and went up on the sidewalk, pinning Mona between the car and the wall.  She lost her leg and then she died a short while later. Her family filed a personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit against Steve.

Both sides agreed that Steve was negligent in causing the accident and Mona’s injuries and subsequent death.  However, the issue at trial was whether Mona was an employee or an independent contractor of Steve’s. If she was an employee, then her family could not sue Steve, but would be limited to a recovery in Workers’ Compensation court, which has a cap on monetary damages.  A civil lawsuit has no such limitation.

Most people who hire aides directly, rather than going through an agency, pay the aides by cash or check, with no paperwork as to the scope of the work and the dates and times performed.  The aide usually doesn’t report the payment as income and pay any taxes.  Likewise, the senior doesn’t pay any payroll taxes or maintain workers compensation insurance but treats the aide as an independent contractor.

We have written about the dangers that lack of documentation causes for Medicaid purposes.  In this case, the attorney for Mona’s family argued that no payroll taxes or contract meant Steve was not her employer.  A written contract is always a good idea, so I am not convinced the lack of one indicates the type of relationship that existed. 

Steve’s attorney, however, had a tough argument to make in favor of an employee/employer relationship.  Although not clear from the newspaper accounts of the case, in all likelihood Steve didn’t carry workers compensation insurance. He paid Mona $100 a day, probably cash, to keep cost down.  In my experience, I have yet to run across someone who hired an aide and purchased the insurance.

In the end, the jury sided with Mona’s family and awarded $525,000.  It is unclear how much of that was covered by Steve’s automobile insurance company and how much he will have to pay out of his pocket.  You might think his problems stem from the choice his family made in not treating Mona as an employee and paying the taxes and insurance.

But, the bigger mistake is in allowing Saul to get behind the wheel.  Not an easy issue for families to tackle but a necessary one that could have life and death consequences, as it did for Steve and Monna.

To gain free online access to the Complete Alzheimer's Resource Kit, which contains care tips as well as other useful information on Alzheimer’s disease, please visit www.BostonMemoryLawyer.com

 

Click Here to Download  The Alzheimer's Resource Kit

 

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.

 

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

Tags: Estate Planning, Nursing Home Costs, Alzheimer's Disease, Medicare, Medicaid, Nursing Homes, elder care, estate, elder care journey, senior drivers, senior driving

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

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