Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

5 Online Safety For Seniors This ‘Cyber Monday’

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Mon, Nov 25, 2019

P42.Sullivan.NovBlog3“Cyber Monday” is a great way for seniors to avoid the crush of crowded stores this holiday season. It is the first Monday after Thanksgiving Day and, as the name implies, Cyber Monday is all about cyber, or online, sales. Internet shoppers can not only find attractive deals on holiday gift items, but they can do so from the comfort of their homes. 

Unfortunately, scammers will also try to take advantage of the high-volume shopping event, and seniors are at an elevated risk. According to the FBI, seniors are targeted by fraudsters because they typically have access to money, are more easily deceived than younger tech savvy people, and they are less likely to report being scammed. 

While this sounds like a difficult issue to overcome, the good news is that older adults can take steps to protect themselves before Cyber Monday. Let us share a few of those steps with you right now.

  1. Update Security Software. Seniors should shop from their own computers, or from a trusted friend or family member’s computer, and make sure it has up-to-date security software. This can be as simple as clicking an update button on an existing program, or for your entire operating system. Do not be afraid to ask for help! Many cybersecurity tools are free, and can help protect against online threats, especially if seniors are receiving email spam and visiting new websites.


  1. Change Passwords. Passwords are a major line of defense against online fraud, but having weak passwords or one all-encompassing password for multiple sites can be a vulnerability. Seniors should  consider preemptively changing their existing passwords ahead of Cyber Monday, make them different and difficult for hackers or hacker programs to decode. Keep a written list near your computer for convenience.


  1. Shop on Familiar Websites. One of the best ways to find online shopping deals and protect against would-be scammers, is to shop from familiar websites that also invest in security. This can include Amazon, Walmart, or any of your favorite neighborhood stores. 


  1. Use Credit Cards. Shopping with credit cards offers an additional layer of protection versus debit cards or providing online access to your checking account. A credit card company is separate from a personal bank account, and often comes with identity theft protections.


  1. Share As Little As Possible. No matter how legitimate an email or pop-up ad appears, seniors should never volunteer their personal or financial information. Email and pop-up scams might offer instant contest winnings, or claim an urgent payment is necessary, but it is best not to respond. If necessary, call the company for more information and find the number to call from your own independent search. 

Identify theft, financial exploitation, and fraud, are all issues that each of us should be aware of. This is especially true for seniors who may feel isolated from family members and may not completely understand the technology they use.

If this article raises any questions for you and your loved ones, we encourage you to talk to us about how to create a comprehensive estate plan that ensures everyone involved is best protected.

Tags: holiday, online safety, computers

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


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

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