Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Key Considerations for Your Aging Parents in Their First Estate Planning Meeting

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Mon, Dec 16, 2019

P42.Sullivan.DecBlog1Is your parent’s estate plan current? Does it reflect their wishes for what they want for their person, their family, and their legacy, should they become incapacitated or pass away? Unfortunately, today, many estate plans for us, as well as our parents, are not frequently updated and, as a result, are not an accurate reflection of our wishes.

This can be a dangerous proposition. Perhaps even more concerning, however, is when your parents, or you, do not have any estate planning at all. Without planning your parents may be at risk of not being able to choose their decision makers for healthcare and financial decisions, or make plans that create the legacy they want to leave to those they love.

There are numerous reasons why your parents may not have completed their estate planning but we often find it is because people simply put off planning. They get busy, it is not a priority, and they do not realize they need it until it is too late. Our goal is to encourage you to work with your parents to create their estate plan with their attorney, and to address any concerns they may have about this first meeting early on.

The first question your parents may want to ask their attorney is his or her experience in estate planning for elderly clients. Many attorneys do not specialize in estate plans that are designed to meet the special legal needs of elderly couples. Let us share an example with you here.

For instance, the majority of your parents’ assets may be invested in separate Individual Retirement Accounts. If this is a second marriage for your parent, it may not be advisable for the parent to simply name the surviving spouse as the beneficiary of the IRAs. This is because the surviving spouse may not understand the need for naming all of the children of both marriages as the beneficiaries of the survivor’s IRA. Instead, the surviving parent may simply leave all of the first spouse’s IRA with the survivor’s IRA to his or her children as the beneficiary of the combined IRA’s.  Your parents need an attorney experienced in drafting specialized IRA trusts to protect all involved and to reach your parents’ goals.

The second question you parents may want to ask their attorney is about his or her specialized education and training in estate planning. How many years has the attorney specialized in estate planning? What does his or her practice focus on? What about his or her focus on elder law? While initially you may only think of estate planning, bear in mind, elder law encompasses the special needs of the elderly such as Medicaid planning for married couples.  

These are just a few of the questions and ideas we want to share with you as you work with your parents on their estate planning goals. There is never a wrong time to talk to your parents about these issues and the plan forward for the future.

At Dennis Sullivan & Associates we help family plan for the future, and with our lifetime protection program, and our Unique 19 point Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Analysis, we emphasize making sure the estate plan continues to meet the needs of all involved.

To discover what your estate planning options are, attend a free Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Seminar, and speak with one of our attorneys to discuss your goals for yourself, your loved ones, and for your parents.

Tags: Estate Planning, Lifetime Protection Program, Elder Law, seniors, family, trusts, Estate Planning Tip, estate

Ways You Can Plan for the Rising Costs of Long-Term Care

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Thu, Jan 03, 2019


The New Year is here! For many of us this means creating New Year’s resolutions. Whether your goal is to spend more time improving your health, spending more time with family, or making changes in your job, it can be an exciting time to put a plan in place to create the future you want.

 As you think about the New Year, do not neglect thinking about your estate planning and elder law planning. Although many of the people we meet initially think these things are the same, nothing could be further from the truth. Estate planning contemplates the plan you need to provide for you and your loved ones in the event of your incapacity or death. Elder law planning, on the other hand, is planning for a potentially uncertain long-term care future.

 While we do not want you to forget to update your estate planning in the New Year and can help you do so with our Lifetime Protection Program, we want you to think about the elder care needs for you and your aging loved ones. The future is uncertain for all of us. It is important that we plan early and well for what it could hold for us. Unfortunately, long-term care is expensive and these costs continue to rise. Estate planning can be a great start but each of us should create a plan this year that covers a future that includes the need for long-term care.

 Where do you start? What type of plan do you need? Since Medicare will not pay for all of your custodial long-term care needs, how will you access much needed benefits? Let us provide some of the insight that we give our clients and their loved ones as they work with us to create a long-term care plan that can sustain them for the future.

       1. Find out what care costs in your state. Many of the Older Americans and their families                 that we speak with are shocked to learn the costs associated with long-term care.                       Further, they are also surprised to learn that Medicare will not pay for assisted living                   facilities or extended care in the home. Most families cannot afford theses costs on top               of their monthly expenses. We encourage you to not wait to learn the cost of care needs             right here in Massachusetts. You can take a look at the Genworth Costs of Care study to             learn more about costs of care.

  1. Evaluate your current home. Many seniors do not want to leave their homes. Although for most this may not be an option, this can become more of a possibility when the home is modified to consider the needs of the Older Americans. For example, are bathtubs slippery or hard to enter? Are lights easy to turn on and off? Are stairs becoming more difficult to manage? Consider speaking with a contractor who understands the needs of seniors for recommendations on how to make the home more appropriate for aging in place.
  1. Purchase long-term care insurance. Long-term care insurance can help cover the costs of long-term care. From skilled nursing facilities to assisted living facilities to additional help in the home, there are different policies to help cover these expenses. While not all qualify, you may wish to speak with a long-term care insurance planner to determine if there is a plan for you or your loved ones available right now.
  1. Meet with an Elder Law Attorney. Your elder law attorney will be able to help you navigate this long-term maze. Knowing what you need and how to access it, together with the steps to take to access public benefits, are key to successfully planning for long-term care. Your elder law attorney can help you be prepared for your potential needs and how to prepare for the rising costs of long-term care in the future.

There is never a wrong time to start planning for long-term care planning.  In fact, this is why we wrote our book The Seniors and Boomers Guide to Healthcare Reform and Avoiding Nursing Home Poverty which you may download by clicking this link. We are here to help you and your loved ones create the planning you need for the future. Do not wait to contact our law office to schedule a meeting with us today.


Tags: Nursing Home Costs, Lifetime Protection Program, New Year's Resolutions, caregiver, in home, skillled care, care unit, long term care insurance, care costs

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

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, Lifetime Protection Program, Elder Law, elder care journey, elder care

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

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