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Worcester Massachusetts Estate Planning Law Blog

Elder Law vs. Estate Planning

Many people have difficulty describing the difference between what a traditional estate planning attorney offers his or her clients versus what an elder law attorney offers his or her clients.

The easy answer is that an estate planning attorney addresses the common issue of what happens to one's assets at death.  In a traditional estate planning setting, much emphasis is placed on minimizing estate taxes, as well as insuring the most efficient and least restrictive means of transferring wealth to others.

When to Update an Existing Estate Plan

Completing an estate plan generally provides individuals with a sense of relief and accomplishment knowing that their wishes and desires with respect to medical and financial decision making, as well as asset distribution are represented in black and white. However, most people take a set it and forget it approach meaning that once their planning is completed, they are under the misconception that it should not be reviewed or addressed at a later date. In a perfect world, estate plans should be reviewed and updated (if necessary) on a regular basis. The following life events or changes in circumstances may require an update of your estate plan:

Who will make critical life decisions for you if you cannot?

There is no substitute for being properly prepared when disaster strikes. Even in the course of ordinary life, it can become increasingly difficult for us as we get older to manage our own affairs. But this is especially true in cases of stroke, Alzheimer's and other mentally debilitating conditions. Fortunately, Massachusetts law allows residents to choose who they want to have control over their personal affairs should they lose the ability to do so,

A durable power of attorney is a document that allows you to give another person (called an "attorney-in-fact") the authority to make banking, real estate and other financial decisions on your behalf. It can be broad in its granting of authority or limited to specific aspects of your financial dealings. The goal of the instrument is to allow you to choose the person who will control your personal affairs in the event you are unable, instead of leaving it to the state to appoint a conservator.

What happens to my mortgage if I die?

In meeting with clients, a common question that surfaces is what happens to my home if I pass away and still owe a lender money. The easy answer is that the mortgage still needs to be paid, whether by a surviving joint owner of the property, personal representative of the estate of the decedent, or by the trustee of a trust if the property was owned by a trust. This is the case because the mortgage follows its collateral, the real estate, and not the person that has passed away.

MassHealth Eligibility for Adult Day Health Participants

Adult Day Health programs are a lesser known alternative to providing care to an aging or disabled family member. These programs offer a win/win situation for everyone in the family-from the client or member who attends the program to the family member who has primary responsibility as caregiver. Adult day Health programs afford the participant the opportunity for socialization, companionship, daily activities, exercise, nutrition, emotional support, nursing, and personal care, in addition to so much more. It also permits much-needed respite for the caregiver, providing a break from the physical, psychological and emotional demands of providing care at home.

Medicare v. Medicaid - A long-term care perspective

Based on the similarity of their names, confusing Medicare with Medicaid is easy. However, there are stark differences between what the programs provide to their respective participants.

Medicare is a national health insurance program for which most people 65 years of age and older can qualify. It is most notably known for its difference coverages: Part A (hospital and other outpatient services), Part B (physician visits), and Part D (prescription drugs). With respect to long term care coverage, Medicare will only pay for a stay in a nursing home care provisionally after a hospital stay of at least three days. In a best case scenario, Medicare will cover up to 100 days of skilled nursing facility care for rehabilitation.

MassHealth Advocacy: When Free Isn't Always for Me

I regularly encounter clients that ask me why should I pay you to assist with the completion and submission of a MassHealth application for my loved one.  I hear that "I can complete the application myself" or "a social worker at the hospital or nursing home where my family member is told me they would do it for free."

First off, and sometimes the most integral part of what I do, is become the conduit between my client and both the nursing home and Medicaid office.  I can alleviate the stress of dealing with nursing home administrators and MassHealth allowing you to focus on what's most important: that you have adequate time to visit with your loved one and ensuring that he/she is getting the best and most appropriate care possible.

Why Should I Plan My Estate?

Being in this line of work, I understand that no one wants to talk about their own mortality or the importance of planning for the unexpected.  However, by procrastinating in implementing at least a basic estate plan, you run the risk that your intended beneficiaries may not receive what you would want them to receive; whether due to administration costs, taxes, costs of long-term care or bickering among heirs.

General Durable Power of Attorney - The Most Important Tool in One's Estate Planning Arsenal

General Durable Power of Attorney - The Most Important Tool in One's Estate Planning Arsenal
When someone hears or mentions the term, estate planning, a Will is usually the first thing that comes to mind.  While a will is an important part of a comprehensive estate plan, a power of attorney is generally the most important document one can have in place.

Too many times, I have encountered situations where I meet with a client and his or her loved one hasn't executed a power of attorney.  Without having such a document in place, one can be left without a decision-maker for his or her finances.  Furthermore, that loved one is now forced to petition to the probate court to become his or her loved one's conservator.  This is an expensive and time consuming process.  Not only that but once the probate court is involved, that person's business is public record and can be accessed by almost anyone.  Lastly, a probate court judge has the responsibility of appointing someone to act as the Conservator.

Caregiver Contracts - An Unused Tool in Medicaid Planning

Most people are willing to care for a parent or loved one without any promise of compensation. Not that this unconditional love should go unrecognized, but what if the caregiver could be fairly compensated and the recipient of the care could be spending down his or her assets in a permissible way so that the elder may be able to qualify for Medicaid long-term care coverage in the future.

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