Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Why Your Children and Grandchildren Should Have Healthcare Documents in Place

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Fri, Aug 17, 2018

 

family

First, you may ask, what are the Healthcare Documents that you recommend?

At Dennis Sullivan & Associates we recommend to everyone over the age of 18 (clients, friends, and family members) have appointed people to make health care decisions, and to receive health care information.

This is especially crucial for those who have college students and young adults in their lives. Young adult children and grandchildren, often times headed away to college, need health care decision making documents in place. These documents include an Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information forms in place (HIPAA), and Living Will and Health Care Proxy.

An 18 Year Old Is An Adult!

Once you turn 18, you are legally an adult, and no one has any automatic right to any medical information. Medical professionals are obliged to withhold any and all medical information of yours from anyone who may be requesting information, unless you specifically grant them authority to release the information. Sometimes, young adults will let the doctor know that it is okay to share information with their parents or close relatives, but it may not come up when the young adult sees the doctor. If an 18 year old forgets or is unable to give their consent, medical professionals, by law, are required to withhold the information.

HIPAA

In the unfortunate event where a young adult is unable to give consent due to being unconscious or in a coma the only way for parents to gain this information is if their child has signed off on the Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information form (HIPAA). This allows a parent to get information from a college health center, and speak with the care team.

Health Care Proxy and Living Will

Terry Schiavo is the reason why the importance of a Living Will and Health Care Proxy gained national attention. A Living Will addresses end of life decisions including the permission/request to discontinue life support after an extended period if a person is in a persistent vegetative state. Terry Schiavo did not have a Living Will in place, and thus a decade long legal battle ensued between her husband and parents.

 

A Health Care Proxy designates an Agent that can make Health Care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make the decisions for yourself. Examples of this could include being unconscious, lacking capacity, or being placed in a medically induced coma. A Health Care Proxy/Living Will and is essential because it names agents to make health care decisions if you’re unable to make decisions on your own.

The Health Care Proxy and Living Will give authority to a person (or persons) of your choice to make decisions if you are unable to.

In short, a HIPAA document will allow for those of your choice to be privy to medical records and a Living Will and Health Care Proxy will appoint an agent to be your medical decision maker in the event that you are unable to do so.

If you would like to implement these essential documents, call our office to schedule a consultation. Many of the estate plans we review are death plans. They are designed to solve situations that occur at death, avoiding probate and distributing the estate. While all these objectives are important, there is much more that is needed. One of the most important parts of planning focuses on how documents work while you and your family are living. To learn more about necessary elements of an estate plan, attend a complimentary workshop.

Tags: children, health, Health Care, HIPAA, health care proxy, grandchildren, power of attorney, Skilled Care

Underestimating the Risk of Long Term Disability: The Importance of Being Prepared I Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney

Posted by Wellesley Estate Planning Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Mar 11, 2016

Underestimating the Risk of Long Term Disability:
The Importance of Being Prepared

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Most Individuals Will Face At Least a Temporary Disability
Study after study confirms that nearly everyone will face at least a temporary disability sometime during their lifetime. More specifically, one in three Americans will face at least a 90-day disability before reaching age 65 and, according to the definitive study in this area, depending upon their ages, up to 44% of Americans will face a disability of up to 4.7 years. On the whole, Americans are up to 3.5 times more likely to become disabled than die in any given year.

Many People Will Face a Long Term Disability
For many Americans, the disability will not be short-lived. According to the 2007 National Home and Hospice Care Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics, over 1.46 million Americans received long term home health care services at any given time in 2007 (the most recent year this information is available). Three-fourths of these patients received skilled care, the highest level of in-home care, and 51% needed help with at least one "activity of daily living" (such as eating, bathing, getting dressed, or the kind of care needed for a severe cognitive impairment like Alzheimer's disease).

Long Term Care Costs Can Be Staggering
Not only will many individuals and families face prolonged long term care, in-home care and nursing home costs continue to rise. According to the Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Survey, the Median Annual Cost for a Private Room in Massachusetts during 2015 was $114,026.

Perhaps most importantly, despite overwhelming and compelling statistics; most Americans grossly underestimate the risk of disability to themselves and to their loved ones. According to the Council on Disability Awareness 2010 survey:

  • 64% of wage earners believe they have a 2% or less chance of being disabled for 3 months or more during their working career; the actual odds for a worker entering the workforce today are closer to 25%.
  • Most working Americans estimate that their own chances of experiencing a long term disability are substantially lower than the average worker’s.

Given the high costs of care, this underestimation often leaves Americans ill prepared to pay for the costs of long term care.

All Planning Should Thoroughly Address Disability
When a person becomes disabled; he or she is often unable to make personal and/or financial decisions. If the disabled person cannot make these decisions, someone must have the legal authority to do so. Otherwise, the family must apply to the court for appointment of a guardian over the person or property, or both. Those who are old enough to remember the public guardianship proceedings for Groucho Marx recognize the need to avoid a guardianship proceeding if at all possible.

At a minimum, seniors need broad powers of attorney that will allow agents to handle all of their property upon disability as well as the appointment of a decision-maker for health care. We recommend that our clients have both a Health Care Proxy and a HIPPAA to make this transition smoothly. Alternatively, a fully funded revocable trust can ensure that the senior's person and property will be cared for as desired, pursuant to the highest duty under the law - that of a trustee.

Click here to view our Free Consumer Report on "The Plain Truth About Alzheimer's."

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we even 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. Attend a free workshop to discover where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as you implement plans for a protected future.

You may register now for a free educational workshop - call 800-964-4295 or click the button below, to register and learn more about what youcan do to protect your spouse, your home, and your life savings.Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: long term care, HIPAA, elder care, Estate Planning Recommendations, health, medical

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 Elder Law Attorney | Plan Ahead for Long Term Care

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

If you were ever a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, you remember the motto: Be Prepared.

That motto still makes sense: be prepared, especially where your health and your finances are concerned.

The following are important issues to discuss with your attorney before a crisis.

FAMILY DYNAMICS

I always tell clients that, when considering long-term care needs, they need to consider family dynamics. Are there squabbles or resentments? If so, these will probably intensify in a crisis situation.

LEGAL ISSUES

Are your legal documents up to date? If so, you're in the minority. In addition to discussing inheritance issues, I always discuss with my clients any changes they may need to make in their will or trust. Family circumstances are always changing - births, deaths, divorces, self-destructive behavior by heirs, second marriages, etc. If your documents aren't appropriate for NOW, they're not appropriate - period!

THE DOCUMENTS - ADVANCE DIRECTIVES, DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY, HEALTH SURROGATE, LAST WILL & TESTAMENT, LIVING WILL

These documents have to meet legal requirements, and must leave no room for doubt. And if you try the do-it-yourself approach, they may not be recognized as legal.

ARRANGING FOR FINANCIAL DECISIONS TO BE HANDLED IF YOU CAN'T

If you don't do this, you could be subjecting your family to a long and tortuous Guardianship proceeding in court. And if you don't do it right, you may be disqualified from receiving Medicaid or Veterans' benefits.

FIRST-STEP FINANCIAL ISSUES

How do I pay for long-term care insurance? Many people don't even realize they may be entitled to Medicaid or Veterans' benefits, or other resources.

CAREGIVER ISSUES

You'll need to know about community resources, housing options, caregiver options, Care Managers, etc.

No doubt you've got questions. We have the answers.

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

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

 lawyer, attorney, bostonClick Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

 

 

Tags: living will, health care proxy, HIPAA, Estate Planning, Elder Law, Health Care, family, seniors, life-care plan

Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney | Critical Planning Documents for College Students

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Mon, Jan 28, 2013

HIPPA, Health Care Proxy, College Student, Estate PlanningIs your "baby" going away to college? Have they recently gone away to college? If so, you've no doubt spent a lot of time poring over lists lately to determine what's a "want" and what's a "need."

You've been planning, and dreading, this day for a couple of years and you've most likely been saving for it for a lot longer than that.  Chances are, you're prepared.  There are however, some things for which you just can't prepare, like accidents or other tragedies.

That's why you need to have your child sign two critical documents.

If your child is already 18 you already know that, legally, they are an adult.  As a result of federal privacy laws, the college they attend generally can not divulge medical information to you.

This is why every child going away to school should sign a Health Care Proxy and HIPAA Authorization.  This way, if tragedy or illness strikes, you'll be able to get the information you need. It doesn't matter if you gave birth to that child.  You won't be able to get any information on his health status unless there's a signed HIPAA authorization.

What happens if there's an accident, and your child ends up in a coma? Who's going to mnake necessary medical decisions? If there's no Health Care Proxy, you may have to go to court to get a guardianship designation so you are in control.

Tragedy has its own timetable however, and going to court could cost you more than just financially if it takes too much time.  Remember Terry Schiavo?

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

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

estate planning, elder law, massachusetts

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


Tags: health care proxy, HIPAA, Baby Boomers, college planning, Estate Planning Tip, Attorney

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

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

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

 

            Mrs. Henry. Case Study

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

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

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

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

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

You Could Lose Everything  Unless You Act Now

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

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

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease | Boston Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Wed, Jun 27, 2012

alzheimers disease attorney, elder law attorney, mass elder law

The definition of dementia, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English

Language, is “deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, concentration, and

judgment, resulting from an organic disease or a disorder of the brain. It is sometimes

accompanied by emotional disturbance and personality changes.” Dementia is a syndrome or a group of symptoms that causes loss of intellectual function and usually progresses over time. 

Alzheimer ’s disease is the leading cause of dementia and the one we hear about the most. Not all people with dementia have Alzheimer’s. Different types of dementia exist. Other conditions, such as depression, will also cause dementia symptoms. Careful diagnosis of any dementia is essential in determining proper treatment and intervention. 

Types of irreversible dementia include Parkinson’s Disease (PD), Vascular Dementia (stroke),  Pick’s Disease, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s Disease, Wilson’s Disease, Lewy Body Dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Frontotemporal Dementia, and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (alcohol-related dementia). 

Causes of reversible dementia can include depression, drug intoxication, alcohol and other poisons, nutritional deficiencies, brain disorders, diseases, a metabolic condition, organ dysfunction, traumatic brain injury, brain tumor, hydrocephalus, syphilis, encephalitis, and meningitis. 

Alzheimer’s is an irreversible dementia condition, but with the appropriate interventions, such irreversible dementias can be managed. Caregivers should seek out education, help, and support.  Physicians’ offices typically have resources available to get you started with this process.  If you would like further information on the different types of dementia, visit the following websites:

• The Mayo Clinic - www.mayoclinic.com

• The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke –www.ninds.nih.gov

• The National Alzheimer’s Association - www.alz.org.

• Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR) -

www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers

• Web MD - www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-dementia

• FamilyDoctor.org

 

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

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: massachusetts estate planning strategies, health care proxy, HIPAA, Estate Planning, Protective Trusts, Estate Planning, Alzheimer's Disease, Elder Law, Health Care, durable power of attorney, Financial Planning, elder care, estate, elder care journey

Common Myths of Medicaid Qualification

Posted by Wellesley Estate Planning Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, May 11, 2012

Is it true you can give $10,000 to each child without penalty? Can't you just put your kids' names on your accounts? Is it true there's an annuity that allows you to "flip the switch" and solve all your payment problems?

The answers? NO! NO! NO! The $10,000 is now $13,000... and it's an IRS rule, not a Medicaid rule. Putting your children's names on your accounts protects none of the money. Annuities? The laws have changed - and there is no magic switch.

Medicaid Qualification, Massachusetts, MA Estate Planning

Often, out of sheer frustration, retirees tell us they're going to solve the problem of qualifying for MassHealth by just giving it all to their kids. But that opens up the possibility of your kids' problems - with their spouses, for example - impacting your money.  In addition, most retirees have no idea about the tax implications. For instance, transferring a house to a child changes the property tax classification to non-owner-occupied - and property taxes will go up.

To qualify for MassHealth, you do have to “spend down” your assets. Each state has different rules; but, generally, you're allowed to keep around $2,000 if you are single and $113,640 if you are married.

The only exempt assets are:

  • Home equity up to $750,000

  • Personal belongings, household goods

  • One car or truck

  • Burial spaces and certain related items for applicant and spouse

  • Irrevocable pre-paid funeral contract

  • Up to $1,500 of face value life insurance; if the face value exceeds $1,500, the cash value is considered a means of payment

All other assets are generally non-exempt - any item that can be turned into cash is a countable asset.  Non-exempt items would include:

  • Cash, savings and checking accounts

  • Credit union share and draft accounts

  • Certificates of deposit

  • U.S. Savings Bonds

  • IRAs, 401(k)s, Keogh plans, 403(b) and all other defined compensation plans

  • Pre-paid funeral contracts that can be canceled

  • Trusts (depending on the terms and conditions of the trust)

  • Real Estate (other than primary residence)

  • More than one car

  • Boat or recreational vehicles

  • Stocks, bonds and mutual funds

  • Land contracts or mortgages held on real estate sold

Sound confusing? It is!  The Elder Law Journey can be very complex and no one should try to navigate this road alone. It's too easy to crash and burn. The Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center can help. We practice Elder Law, and we've walked a number of families through the Elder Care Journey by providing them with comprehensive estate planning, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, long-term care planning, asset protection programs, and assistance acquiring Veteran’s Benefits.

To learn more about how the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center can help you register online to attend one of our upcoming Trust, Estate, and Asset Protection Workshops or register by calling (800) 964-4295 (24/7).  You will discover why traditional estate planning may not work and the life-care planning steps you should be taking instead so you will not outlive your savings, the asset protection language that most people don't have in their power of attorney documents which can help protect their life savings, how to qualify for the hidden Veteran's benefits that most people know nothing about, and How Medicaid works...and the steps you need to take now to protect yourself and your family under the new rules.

Tags: power of attorney, health care proxy, HIPAA, Estate Planning, Estate Planning, Alzheimer's Disease, Elder Law, Medicare, 401(k), Medicaid, MassHealth, family, elder care, elder care journey

How To Craft, Revise and Maintain A Well-Thought-Out Estate Plan

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Wed, Mar 09, 2011

"Because there is no April 15th for Estate Planning and Asset Protection, many people try to procrastinate or avoid it.  However, there can be grave consequences to neglecting it." --Dennis Sullivan, Esq. CPA, LLM

It certainly is understandable that no one enjoys a conversation about death – especially their own! And, with the estate tax exemption now set at $5 million for an individual and $10 million for a couple, many people may believe they have no reason to consult an attorney about their estate planning.

Massachusetts will assess a tax on estates over $1 million. Without proper planning a married couple will have only $1 million between them.  See a lawer to be sure that you and your spouse get the $2 million exemption available to you.

Also, Massachusetts clients and taxpayers need to watch out for estate plans created based on maximum federal applicable exclusion planning, common for many estate plans prior to 2003. Now with the $5 million federal exempt amount, there could be a COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE Massachusetts estate tax triggered at the first death. The cost to your spouse and family could be as much as $400,000 in unnecessary estate taxes.

But avoiding the topic of estate planning can mean unnecessary expense, confusion and conflict.  Why do you need an estate plan? A comprehensive estate plan ensures that your estate is distributed according to your wishes, provides protection for you in the event of your own disability, and allows you to plan for your family. 

Can I write my own will? You certainly can; however, improperly drafted or last-minute,wills frequently are contested and invalidated in court. Massachusetts does NOT recognize handwritten wills. If you don’t know what you’re doing, the outcome could be much different than you expect. 

What should every estate plan have?  The list should include a will, powers of attorney for financial affairs and for health care, and a living will along with appropriate trusts.  Trusts not only reduce estate taxes, but they also help their heirs to avoid probate. Trusts also can shield assets from nursing home and medical expenses, loss due to unforeseen circumstances, such as bankruptcy, divorce or lawsuits of your heirs.

Two common mistakes people make in their estate planning: failure to plan for their personal effects and failure to review and update their plans over time. You can learn more about comprehensive estate planning by attending one of our Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Workshops and also by downloading our Unique Self-Guided 19-Point Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Legal Guide on our website.  Once you become a client, we have a Lifetime Protection Program to ensure that your planning stays up to date with the changes in law, fincial, health and family situations.

Tags: massachusetts estate planning strategies, will, power of attorney, living will, health care proxy, HIPAA, Estate Planning, trusts, estate tax, Massachusetts estate tax, estate tax savings, Protective Trusts, Estate Planning, Mistakes, New estate tax law, Massacusetts Estate Tax

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