Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

The High Cost of Seniors Living Longer

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Sep 05, 2014


The Cost of Living Longer | Massachusetts Eldercare Attorney


 planning, estate, eldercare


A Pachyderm of Problems

Every day, we see clients for whom long-term care is the elephant in the room. They feel they can’t afford the costs, but they also feel they can’t afford not to have it either. So their solution is to pretend they don’t see the elephant and try to ignore the problem until it goes away on its own. This unfortunately often leads to our metaphorical elephant trampling their life savings and any future inheritance they are trying to leave behind. The older you are, the more expensive a long-term care policy gets and if you get sick before you have long-term care protection in place, it’s too late. Insurance companies are looking out for their bottom line, and an already ill senior will scare them off.

The costs for these policies are rising faster than inflation too. Therein lies the conundrum for Boomers and seniors: They’re living longer than their parents did but that means they need more money to make it through “old age”. Finding long-term care is a tough and complicated process. You’ll need to find a place that cares for people with your (or your loved one’s) circumstances. You need to find a place with the right facilities and staff, a place that leaves you with a good, safe feeling. And you have to be able to afford it too. This is not any sort of one-size-fits-all situation. Everyone has their own specific services and conditions that they or their loved ones will need met. Remember, what we call “long-term care” is a broad category, with options ranging from live-in facilities to your own home.

Lurking Complications With Long Term Care

The greatest threat to the financial security of Boomers and seniors is the cost of long-term care (and Obamacare will not assist with this). Assisted-living facilities are now climbing toward the $7,500-a-month mark. Many have started bundling more services together, rather than charging for each individually. Bundling might be a good idea from the nursing home’s perspective, but just like pre-packaged cable TV you will wind up paying for a lot of services you don’t need and don’t want. A private room at a nursing home will range from $500 - $600 a day.

The cost of home healthcare is rising, too. Some people choose independent-living apartments. These facilities typically don’t require lump-sum payments, and residents can contract with home health-services independently. Medicaid may be there for those who qualify but if you ever want to learn the true meaning of “jumping through hoops” just try qualifying! The best thing, of course, is long-term care insurance, but that’s getting more expensive too as companies raise their rates while cutting back on their coverage. In addition, this insurance is getting more complicated, now encompassing aspects such as protection of the surviving spouse, caregiver issues, scams/ID theft, and making sure you have an advocate to fight for your rights in a system that’s slanted against you.

In short, we’re living longer, and unlike previous generations, people are generally not living with or even near their children. Seniors are going to need more money for this longer life and for any unforeseen medical problems that may arise.

A Magic Trick No One Wants to See

Do you know the fastest way for a Boomer or senior couple to become an impoverished Boomer or senior couple is? Simple, one of them just needs to become ill before they get long-term care insurance. We see it every day, people who’ve worked hard and saved money all their lives are forced to see it wash away in a flood of medical bills as they age. It is truly heart-breaking, because, if you’ve managed to squirrel some money away, you could probably have afforded long-term care. 

The Downside to Living Longer

Our life expectancies are going up these days and so is the cost of healthcare, the distance seniors are living from their children and families, and the financial pressures on Medicare and Medicaid. The new Affordable Care Act, in fact, stipulates $500 billion in Medicare cuts over the next decade! Where do you turn if you or your spouse gets ill? Home health care? Adult day-care? Assisted-living? A nursing facility? Respite-care services, which allow the caregiver to drop off the senior for a limited period? Who’s going to pay for it? And for how long?  These are the questions to ask now, while you still have time to plan. If you haven’t purchased long-term care before you or your spouse become ill…forget about it. No one will insure you once you’re sick! If this happens to you, you’re going to be out of time, out of options, and very quickly out of money. And if you’ve planned to leave something for your heirs, there may be nothing left to leave to them other than a pile of bills. 


It’s an old (but true) cliché: those who fail to plan, are planning to fail. When it comes to healthcare expenses as you age, you fail to plan at the risk of yourself and those you love.  


At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we 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, click here for more information. We provide clients with a unique 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: living will, Estate Planning, Estate Planning, asset protection, Massacusetts Estate Tax, long term care, life insurance, Medicaid, MassHealth, in-home care, marriage, Estate Planning Tip, seniors, assisted living, life-care plan, hospice, Massachusetts, assets, in home, incapacity, asset, home, surviving spouse, Estate Planning Recommendations, in-home care, long term care insurance, Inheritance

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

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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 Lawyer | 5 Estate-Planning Tasks That You Shouldn't Put Off

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Tue, Oct 16, 2012

Over time, your family will face a number of changes. From when you purchase your first home and your children are born to the time they leave for college and you plan for retirement and beyond, new issues and concerns arise. With proper planning your family will be prepared for life’s changes and challenges.

Please take the time to read this great article by Christine Benz called "5 Estate-Planning Tasks That You Shouldn't Put Off" which addresses estate planning to-dos that should not be placed on the back burner.

5 Estate-Planning Tasks That You Shouldn't Put Off

Here are the key estate-planning to-dos:

Task 1: Update Your Beneficiary Designations
Even if you've never set foot in an attorney's office, you've laid the groundwork for an estate plan if you've filled out beneficiary designation forms for your financial accounts. Those designations, in fact, trump other estate-planning documents when it comes to distributing your assets, so it's worthwhile to periodically review them to make sure they're up-to-date with your current situation--if you've gotten married or divorced, or example. (How would your spouse feel if you inadvertently left your 401(k) account to your brother?) And if you have drafted estate-planning documents such as a will, your attorney should be able to help you review your beneficiary designations to ensure that they sync up with those documents. This article ( provides guidance on beneficiary designation dos and don' planning, estate-planning, lawyer, Massachusetts

Task 2: Designate Legal Guardians
Here's another step that's important regardless of asset level: Parents of young children should designate legal guardians who will look after their children if the parents should die or otherwise be unable to care for their minor children. Spouses often put off this step because they disagree about guardianship, but it helps if you can focus the discussion on actual child-rearing abilities and willingness to do the job. Don't get hung up on hurting anyone's feelings or bypassing friends or family members who might expect to be your guardians but aren't the best choice. (Naming someone a guardian because you're a guardian for their children isn't a good reason.) Most important, your guardian should be willing and able to take care of your children if the need arises, so an essential step is to discuss the responsibilities with the potential guardian and make sure he or she is on board. You also want your children's guardian to share you and your spouse's values and views on parenting; financial wherewithal should be a consideration, as well. It's also worth noting that it's possible to name two guardians--one to take care of your child's needs on a day-to-day basis and another to supervise the child's financial assets. But that's usually not practical for obvious reasons.

Task 3: Create a Living Will and Last Will and Testament
A living will is another document that's important no matter what your asset level is; it tells your health-care providers and your loved ones how you would like to be cared for if you should become terminally ill and unable to express your wishes yourself. Called a "medical directive" in some states, this document details your views toward life-support equipment. Not to be confused with a living will, a last will and testament details how you'd like your assets and possessions distributed after your death.

Task 4: Draft Powers of Attorney
Estate planning doesn't just relate to death and dying: A basic estate plan should also address what would happen to your affairs if you are still living but incapacitated. A power of attorney is a document that specifies who will handle your affairs if you are unable to do so. You'll need to draft two separate documents: one that names your power of attorney for health-care decisions and another for financial matters (often called a durable power of attorney). The person you entrust with your power of attorney for health care will, ideally, live in close geographic proximity to you and will also understand your general wishes about your own health care. The person who you name on your durable power of attorney form should be detail-oriented and comfortable with financial matters, and he or she should also have a general understanding about your attitudes toward and goals for your money.

Task 5: Name an Executor
Your executor will gather all of your assets after you're gone and make sure they are distributed in accordance with your will. Ideally, your executor will be someone who's comfortable with numbers and good with details, and will also be able to find the time to work on your estate. It's common to name family members as executors, but in more complicated situations it might be preferable to use a professional, such as a bank trust officer, to serve as your executor. It's a good idea to tell your executor that you've named him or her, and also provide details on how to obtain access to important documents, such as your will and a master directory detailing all of your accounts.

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.

Register Now and receive a free Unique Self-Guided 19-Point Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection Legal Guide with accompanying DVD!



Tags: power of attorney, living will, Estate Planning, Beneficiary, executor, Elder Law, lawyer, legal guardians, testament

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: 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

Special Legal Documents for The Alzheimer's Patient

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Tue, Jul 19, 2011

Planning ahead is important for everyone to ensure our wishes are met in the event of death or incapacity.  For families coping with Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia planning is even more important because of the uncertainty of your loved one's capacity prognosis.

Power of Attorney.  A general, durable power of attorney is a legal document which lists the person or persons authorized to make decisions on behalf of another when that other person has reduced mental capacity.  The extent of the power given to the authorized person/s is up to the individual on whose behalf the document is being created.  An appropriately designed and executed power of attorney provides great peace of mind to the individual in question as well as to his/her family.  With this tool in place, there will always be someone to pay bills, withdraw funds, process any income, etc. on your loved one's behalf, according to their plan.

In some cases, people choose to establish separate powers of attorney - one for finance and another for health care. The two or more people would have authority to make decisions in different areas, financial and health care.

The person/s with the power of attorney for health care, for example, would make choices regarding treatment changes, continuation of life support, etc. The person with this power of attorney also has access to the medical records of the person with Alzheimer's. The person with power of attorney for finances usually has access to the person's bank accounts and ensures that his/her bills, including medical bills are paid.

In situations where the power of attorney is not provided ahead of time, the person who will have power of attorney must go to court to establish guardianship, which can be a lengthy and costly process for the family.

Who Decides Whether You're "Competent"?

There are various competency tests like the Hopkins Competency Assessment Test.  However, in many cases, this decision is made within families, when a loved one agrees or asserts that their ability to think clearly and make good decisions is impaired.  This revisits the need to begin to talk about this kind of planning early in the Alzheimer's diagnosis.  Once dementia-like symptoms become more severe, it becomes more difficult to broach topics like competency with your loved one.

What is an Advanced Directive?

An advanced directive, or living will, states your health care/disability instructions. Advanced directives can provide the following information:

  • The individual's wishes regarding life support and other life-lengthening measures;
  • The role of the power of attorney for health care;
  • The individual's wishes regarding his or her death.


A will is a legal document that lists your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children after your death.  

Both a will and a living trust can transfer assets, but each has unique uses. For example, a living trust can hold assets for your benefit while you are alive, as in the event you lose mental capacity.  A will only goes into effect after death, while a revocable living trust goes into effect as soon as it is signed. 

A will only governs the disposition of property owned in the deceased's sole name, while a revocable living trust only handles the distribution of property that has been transferred into it. 

A will does nothing to plan for mental disability, while a disability plan can be written right into a revocable living trust. Property passing under the terms of a will goes through probate, while property passing under the terms of a revocable living trust avoids probate.

If you are concerned about people knowing your net worth or your beneficiaries, you might decide to transfer your assets through a trust, which, unlike a will, is not a public document. If a person wanted to leave assets to a domestic partner, for example, might use a revocable trust, because it is harder for family members to challenge a trust than a will.

A living trust is also useful if you own real estate in a state that is not your primary residence. Real estate is governed by the probate rules of the state in which it is situated. Unless the property is in a living trust, a Massachusetts resident, for example, who owns a home in Florida would need to probate the property separately there.

For more information about estate planning and the different documents at your disposal, watch our Estate & Retirement Planning videos.  To learn firsthand about these documents and other issues surrounding an Alzheimer's diagnosis call our office at 781-237-2815 or register online to attend one of our Trust, Estate and Asset Protection workshops.  For more information about dealing with all the various intricacies of Alzheimer's, please also visit us online to read the valuable information in our Alzheimer's Resources Kit.

Tags: will, living will, health care proxy, trusts, Alzheimer's Disease, durable power of attorney

Don't Leave Your Legacy To Chance

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Wed, May 18, 2011

If you are a Baby Boomer who has worked hard, accumulated significant assets, support charitable causes, and plan to continue working through “retirement,” you are not alone! And you won’t be particularly surprised by the findings of a recently released survey by US Trust: Insights on Wealth and Worth. The survey was conducted earlier this year, with 457 high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals, with $3 million or more in investable assets. The survey found a distinct generational mindset among the wealthy – many of whom are Baby Boomers, self-made, first generation wealthy who achieved financial success on their own.

You are probably familiar with some of these insights found by the survey:

  • Nearly half of these wealthy individuals plan to continue working into “retirement,” many starting a second career or new business.
  • Many also want to be able to travel – possibly “going mobile” with their business, perhaps even into retirement?
  • Many wealthy Americans want to give back to their communities and support charitable causes, and they may need professional legal advice to fulfill those ideals.
  • Few have the type of comprehensive estate planning in place that matches the complexity of their estate, their finances and their estate planning goals.

That last insight, about few people having the type of comprehensive estate planning they really need, may come as a surprise. I see this in my practice every day. Just because you have a simple will in place or believe the federal estate tax will not affect you, does not mean you have adequately met your estate planning needs. Some common “gaps” that turned up in the US Trust survey include:

  • No living will or health care directive
  • No durable financial power of attorney
  • No revocable living trust
  • Inadequate planning for life insurance
  • No charitable planning, despite charitable intent
  • No written plan for the distribution of personal property
  • No business succession plan.

If you saw yourself in the first paragraphs of this post, you likely saw yourself again in the last few. If you don’t take action, then you are leaving your legacy to chance.  

To learn more about protecting your legacy, attend a free, educational Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Workshop. Register online or call 800-964-4295.

Tags: will, power of attorney, living will, Estate Planning, trusts, Retirement, Baby Boomers, Business Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, durable power of attorney, legacy

How To Make Sure Your Final Wishes Are Carried Out

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Fri, Mar 11, 2011

Retaining control and dignity as the end of life approaches is an often overlooked aspect of comprehensive estate planning. Regardless the size or value of your “estate,” proper planning should address these difficult issues.

US News & World Report ran an article last week, How to Ensure Your Last Wishes Are Carried Out. As they outline, there are two primary ways to ensure your final wishes are followed: one is through legal documents, and the second is by communicating your wishes to those who may be involved in carrying them out should you become incapacitated.

As regards legal documents, you’ll need a power of attorney for healthcare, also known as a healthcare proxy. Your health care power of attorney allows you designate the person you want to be your health care decision-maker in the event you cannot make decisions for yourself.

You also may want to consider a Living Will. A Living Will is the document that helps guide the health care decisions made on your behalf. This is the document that allows you to spell out what types of medical care you would, or would not, want to receive in various situations.

The most important piece of advice? Make these decisions now, while you are able. Record them in valid legal documents, and communicate your wishes to those who may be carrying them out.

You can read more about Powers of Attorney and Health Care Documents (or Advance Directives) in the Estate Planning Strategies page on our website.

  For more information on crafting a legal plan to maintain control over your assets and life decisions, attend a free Estate Planning and Asset Protection Workshop.

Tags: massachusetts estate planning strategies, will, living will, health care proxy, Estate Planning, trusts, Estate Planning, Elder Law, Metro West Estate Plan

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

Careful Planning Can Protect Assets For Surviving Spouse

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Fri, Jul 30, 2010

What happens if your parent dies after a long nursing home stay, for which Medicaid paid benefits?  This is the question that was posed recently by a reader to The Commercial Appeal:

My friend's mother died.  She recently received a letter from the state requesting repayment of the Medicaid benefits paid to the nursing home for her mother.  Does she owe this money?

MA Medicaid Eligibility

The short answer to the question is...well...there is no short answer.  Medicaid is a joint federal-state program, administered by each state with its own rules, but within federal guidelines.  Each state has an Estate Recovery Program to recoup money paid out for nursing home care.  While it is now common for the state to contact surviving relatives and demand repayment, the state has a right to reimbursement only from the probate assets of the deceased, and not directly from family members.  There also are limitations to the state's rights to recover even from the probate estate.

Of course, if you receive a letter from Medicaid demanding repayment, you are well-advised to consult qualified counsel before responding.  Having said that, however, the best course would be prior Medicaid eligibility planning.  There are perfectly legal ways to protect significant assets as well as speed the Medicaid eligibility process.  Additionally, certain types of transfers are permitted under federal law, and these opportunities should be explored prior to Medicaid eligibility.

You can learn more about Medicaid and long-term care planning on our website and by attending a complimentary Trust, Estate and Asset Protection workshop.  We recently added informative videos on how to protect your home and other assets for your family and you can also request a free Consumer's Guide to Medicaid, Nursing Homes and Asset Protection Planning.

Tags: power of attorney, living will, health care proxy, Estate Planning, Nursing Home Costs, Elder Law, asset protection

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