Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

The Realities of Long-Term Care

Posted by Wellesley Estate Planning Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Tue, Apr 24, 2012

Carla called me only after much urging from her friend.  Carla’s husband, David, had lung cancer and it had spread throughout his body.  The end of his battle was nearing and he had been approved for placement on hospice, an approach to medical care where the goal is to enhance the quality of life for patients with terminal illness but who are likely to die within 6 months.  It appeared that David only had weeks to live and a long term nursing home stay wasn’t a likely scenario. So, why was she calling me?  Let’s take a closer look.

 Carla told me the last several years have really taken a toll on her health.  She is 70 but starting to slow down physically.  She said she has put knee replacement surgery on hold.  It was clear that Carla’s focus was completely on David but her friend recognized that she also needs to focus on “life after David”.  That’s why Carla was calling, although I don’t think she realized it entirely.

 I asked her about her finances.  David had a pension of $2500 and Social Security of $1500.  Carla, who didn’t work outside the home during the years she raised their 3 children, only received Social Security of $750 and no pension.  She also told me that David’ pension would stop once he died.  She remembered that he took the maximum pension option when he retired a few years ago but that there would be no survivor option if she outlived him.  I told her that she would lose one Social Security check as well, keeping the larger one.

 I asked Carla about their assets.  She and David owned their home which she estimated to be worth approximately $300,000 with no mortgage.  They also had savings totaling $250,000.  They had no life insurance and no long term care insurance.  I asked about their legal documents.  Carla said she and David had both executed powers of attorney and health care directives several years ago.  Their wills she estimated to be about 20 years old, prepared when her children were of school age.  Their wills left everything to the surviving spouse and then alternatively to the children.

 Long Term CareAs I mentioned, David was now on hospice.  Carla had set up a hospital bed on the first floor and brought David home.  At this point he was bedridden.  A hospice nurse was coming to the home several times a week.  Although very tired, Carla said that David was completely lucid.  She then asked me what exactly I could do to help her.

 It was clear from her question that her focus was on David.  She wasn’t thinking about her own needs but I was.  Although not easy for her to do, I asked Carla to shift her focus for a few minutes.  I asked her about her own health and long term care needs.   She again told me she would address it after David’ passing.

 “Who will care for you”, I asked, “if you need long term care in the future.”  Carla told me her children don’t live nearby and she never really thought about it.  She wants to be cared for at home, just as she is doing for David, but she recognized that it won’t be easy.  I then told Carla that we could help her try to accomplish that but there are steps that we need to take immediately, without delay.  Next week I’ll give you the details.

For more information on how to effectively plan for you and your spouse's trip on the elder care journey visit www.MASeniorWorkshop.com.  There you will find dates and times for upcoming workshops on estate planning, elder law, and veteran's benefits hosted by the team of professionals at The Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates. 

Tags: living will, health care proxy, Estate Planning, Elder Law, asset protection, long term care, Medicaid, MassHealth, in-home care, Health Care, durable power of attorney, family, Lifetime Protection Program, elder care, assisted living, elder care journey

Planning & Managing Changes on your Family's Eldercare Journey

Posted by Wellesley Estate Planning Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Mon, Mar 05, 2012

At Dennis Sullivan & Associates, we help people and their families protect their home and lifesavings from the increasing cost of nursing home and medical care, as well as savings on taxes and avoiding the time and cost of the probate process.

With people living longer, it is important to plan ahead for what can happen as you and your spouse age. That’s why we created the Unique Trust, Estate and Asset Protection review process to help people eliminate potential problems in their planning. 

Planning for long term care is especially important as we all age.  A 2011 world Alzheimer’s study showed that 50% of people over 80 will be diagnosed with a dementia during their lifetime, which is why we created an online Alzheimer's Resouce Center to help people and their families deal with the devastating effects of long term illness.

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On February 23rd we hosted a client workshop at the Wellesley College Club as part of our Lifetime Protection Program.  This exclusive event featured several expert guest speakers on the topic: "Planning for and Managing Changes Along the Elder Care Journey".  Helpful information was provided for clients on how to stay in their homes safely, alternative living options available, how to evaluate those opportunities and how to pay for different care options.

In order to help people and their families deal with these changes we have developed a couple of unique processes.  First, we created the 19 Point Trust, Estate, and Asset Protection Legal Guide designed to help people discover where problems may exist in their existing planning as well as the opportunities to improve their planning.  A second unique processes for clients is the Lifetime Protection Program, which incorporates an ongoing review into a client’s planning to assist in dealing with changes in the law, finances, health, or family situation.  These changes may require a client’s planning to be updated to accomplish their goals. Clients are also able to attend exclusive events like our recent event on planning and managing changes on the elder care journey.

We also discussed another important new resource, the Alzheimer’s Resource Kit available free online and sold nationally for $200.  We are committed to helping families dealing with the challenge of Alzheimer’s through the many life changes on the Elder Care Journey.  The way in which we help people along their journey is with a unique plan called a Life Care Plan.  The Life Care Plan is a roadmap for total care; it includes the legal protection needed to safeguard assets, honor your loved one’s wishes and provide for family members and it describes how your loved one’s long-term care, financial, physical and psychological needs will be met.

The first guest presentation at the Wellesley College Club event was provided by Debbie Gitner and Linda Sullivan of Elder Care Resources, who spoke about the importance of having a professional that can provide a health care plan assessment, identify potential health risks and help develop the right solution for each individual situation.  The professional “care coordinators” incorporate their services as an integral part of our Life Care Plan.  Among other things, a care coordinator acts as a liaison for families, overseeing care and alerting families to potential problems, able to screen, arrange, and monitor in home help and other services and help families avoid nursing home costs by avoiding inappropriate placements. The second guest presentation was given by David Isaacson of First Financial Resources, who spoke about how to pay for long-term care and managing changes on the elder care journey.  David focused on long-term care insurance and how it can help defray the cost of living longer by helping pay for in home care, assisted living, and a nursing home if need be.  David helped those in attendance evaluate whether long term care insurance makes sense by walking people through the various options; whether they should remain self-insured, rely on friends and family, protect assets so they can qualify for MassHealth, or whether it makes sense to transfer some risk to an insurance company buy purchasing long-term care insurance. 

In summary, the Lifetime Protection Program Event on Planning for and Managing Life’s Changes Along the Elder Care Journey was well received by those in attendance.  If you would like a DVD on the topic of Life Care Planning please contact our office at (781) 237-2815.  We also have a DVD series from a previous Lifetime Protection Program event on Safe Investing for Seniors available upon request.    

To learn more about protecting your home, spouse, family and life savings and to attend a free, educational  Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Workshop.  Register online or call 800-964-4295. 

Tags: Alzheimer's Disease, Elder Law, Lifetime Protection Program, elder care, elder care journey

Estate Planning Tip: Check Your Beneficiary Designations Annually

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Tue, May 24, 2011

Proper planning can set your estate, your assets, and your family in line for a smooth transition but improper or incomplete planning can bring untold hardship, especially if the matter ends up in court. Courtesy of Bill Singer’s blog through Forbes, here’s another sad story to add to the file of otherwise avoidable legal woes. The entire story and Singer’s commentary are worth reading, but in essence it is the story of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) Arbitration 10-02435 (May 9, 2011), or the shortsightedness of one Newman Trowbridge, Jr, Esq.

Mr. Trowbridge opened an IRA in 1994 and named his then wife as beneficiary of the account. Then two things happened: (1) his IRA was taken over by Capital One and his account was reassigned to a new broker (Rick Schenck, Sr.) and (2) he and his then wife underwent what was apparently a terrible and protracted divorce. Mr. Trowbridge later re-married, put his life back together, and continued with his IRA with gusto (he quadrupled the balance) until he suddenly and tragically passed in 2009. At that time, Trowbridge’s estate went to his wife along with all the various accounts for which he named her as beneficiary, but the IRA went to his ex-wife. The story is familiar and you probably saw it coming, but Trowbridge had failed to reassign the beneficiary of his IRA and it has remained under his first wife.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there since the recent widow had attempted to reclaim the IRA. She went so far as to present the broker with a court order stating that all accounts that make up the decedent’s estate must be transferred to the heirs of the decedent, but that didn’t work since the IRA isn’t a part of the estate to begin with. The broker defaulted to the named beneficiary, or the ex-wife. In response the widow tried suing on counts of negligence, amongst other things, since the broker had not carried out his duty by advising the late Mr. Trowbridge to rename his beneficiary. The suit is why this is the story of FINRA Arbitration 10-02435, and why it is all the more bitter since the widow lost the suit and it was held that the broker did his job (the case was even removed from his record.) Instead, the FINRA arbitration placed the blame squarely on Mr. Trowbridge, adding insult to injury since, we can presume and the court admitted, he probably didn’t intend to hand the IRA over to his ex-wife.

The lesson is three-fold.

1. Firstly, you must adapt your plans whenever you undergo a life-change, like renaming beneficiaries after divorces and marriages.

2. Secondly, planning is about making sure your affairs are in order before those plans are needed, that is, fully fleshing out your plans early so an unexpected death doesn’t keep you from finishing the most important details.

3. Finally, it’s a pretty tricky world when you try to undo the damages of incomplete or poor planning, and often an unforgiving one for your surviving family members and loved ones.

At Dennis Sullivan & Associates we have created the Lifetime Protection Program, to help  clients review their situation, including beneficiary designations. This is important because of changes in health, family, the law and finances.   To review your own planning, you can use our self-guided 19-Point Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Legal Guide

To learn more about protecting your home, spouse, family and life savings, attend a free, educational Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Workshop . Register online or call 800-964-4295.

Tags: Estate Planning, IRA, Estate Planning, Metro West Estate Plan, Retirement, Beneficiary, Lifetime Protection Program, Estate Planning Tip

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