Make Sure You Don’t Leave a Mess Behind for Your Children with Your Estate Planning

The goal of most planning is to avoid leaving a mess behind for your children, be it financially, legally, or literally. A cluttered house, for example, is one literal issue that many people have to deal with.

Decluttering and getting rid of your worldly possessions that are no longer necessary are at the top of the list for eliminating or reducing the literal mess and your stress level. However, you may also need legal and financial protections put in place by a knowledgeable estate planning attorney.

Many people want their spouse or their children to take over in the event of a sudden disability but your children or spouse could be barred from doing so if you do not have the legal paperwork in place like a power of attorney and a living will.

These advance directives may allow you to choose the people in charge in your life and avoid costly and lengthy court proceedings for guardianship in which the court determines who will be responsible for helping you. You can save money, time and the invasion of privacy and complications associated with a court proceeding. You can consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to learn more about how this can help you and your loved ones.

Preventing Common Problems When a Person Unexpectedly Passes Away

Doing your best to put together a comprehensive estate plan is certainly an important component of protecting your beneficiaries and the assets you have worked so hard to accumulate and build over the course of your life.

However, people who may not have had a great relationship with you towards the end of your life might show up suddenly and make things more challenging for your family members.

There are a couple of different things you can do to minimize the difficulties your family members may face if you were to suddenly pass away. The first is to enable the executor of your estate to immediately change the locks and secure your residence. You may also ask the executor to contact neighbors and to tell them to report any activity that happens at the residence. A trust or a will is also beneficial for preventing someone you did not expect from taking your property.

A simple provision added to your will such as a no contest clause would disinherit anyone who contests the validity of a trust or a will. Furthermore, contest might be expanded to include any concealment of estate property or removal. If beneficiaries are told that the inappropriate removal or concealment of property could lead to disinheritance, they might be less likely to conceal these belongings.

Another good way to avoid difficulties for your loved ones after you pass away is to simply have a conversation with them that the executor is responsible for all of your property. Ensure that all of your family members realize that no one is entitled to any of your property until the executor has decided that distribution is appropriate. Your lawyer can help you put together the right strategy for avoiding these common issues.


Avoid These Major Elder Law Planning Mistakes

Increasingly, more people are realizing the benefit of elder law planning and are setting up consultations with elder law attorneys to discuss mitigating their risks. However, there are opportunities for mistakes in this process if you are not knowledgeable about what to do. Looking ahead to the future is not always easy, but you must consider elder care and protecting your assets.

The first and most common failing of elder law planning include not to address all of the comprehensive issues that make up planning for your older years.

Sadly, most people don’t realize what they’ve missed- instead, it’s their family members grappling with problems in the aftermath.

They can include:

  •   Protecting your assets from the cost of long term care while also qualifying for government benefits that exist with that care.
  •   Choosing trusted individuals who are capable of managing your affairs if you are disabled.
  •   Protecting your inheritances for your beneficiaries from lawsuits, creditors and divorces affecting your children.
  •   Transferring your assets to your heirs in the manner that you want, when you want while also avoiding family disputes.

If you are not able to manage your affairs at any point in time, you could become the subject of a guardianship proceeding in which a judge appoints a legal guardian to serve on your behalf.

Taking your future into your own hands and scheduling a consultation with an elder law and estate planning attorney is one way to avoid this problem.

Study Shows Elder Financial Fraud Tops $36 Billion

One recent study found that $36 billion may be a low estimate for the final total on elder fraud. Unfortunately, scams targeting the elderly have been on the rise in recent years, be it attempting to get their private information to open credit cards in their name, or to encourage them to list strangers or relatively recent acquaintances in their estate planning documents.

Many people are aware of some of the most popular elder fraud scams, but criminals are getting better at hiding their work under the guise of seemingly legitimate plans.

One 2015 report, targeted $36.5 billion as the amount of money lost in financial abuse and scams, however, that problem is growing and three out of ten state securities regulators report that they have seen an increase of complaints and cases involving senior financial fraud and exploitation.

Only 3% of regulators reported a decline. Thieves are often following the money and the most common types of abuse include exploitation, account distribution, power of attorney, trustee or family member taking advantage, diminished capacity, fraud and excessive withdrawals.

Declining condition is not the only issue that affects these severe problems. This in fact has only been associated with 33% increase in scam susceptibility. Many of the victims of financial elder fraud today are not disabled or demented at all. One out of every 18 cognitively intact older people is subject to abuse fraud or financial scams, according to an American Journal of Public Health study. To protect your assets and ensure you have appropriate documents that protect you and your loved ones for many years to come, schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer.  



Most Common Challenges Facing Aging Family Members with Housing Transitions

The discovery that your loved one may need to make a housing transition either to downsize to a different location or to move into a residential facility that assist them with day to day care can be overwhelming and difficult for the family member in question and their adult children and other caregivers. These situations can be complicated by a sudden diagnosis of a cognitive issue like dementia and should therefore be handled with care and a team of professionals.

There are a number of different living arrangements available for the elderly today. They include senior communities, skilled care, independent living and assisted living. Deciding on the right type of location for your loved one will likely require research and an in-home visit. When you know your loved one’s abilities and where he or she needs assistance, you’ll be better equipped to make this decision.

All of these have one thing in common and that is a transition from an apartment or a home with which your loved one may have become very attached. This transition involves financial, medical and personal intricacies. This situation would ideally occur when everyone is of sound mind and very healthy.

However, sadly, many of these decisions happen in a rush and after other issues like dementia have come onto the picture. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney in Massachusetts can assist you to avoid these challenges and help you with determining how your estate plan is affected by decisions made regarding housing.


What Are the Biggest Advantages of a Living Trust?

Choosing a living trust as a component of your estate plan is a wise decision and it is one that can only be made after you have carefully reviewed your current estate planning documents. These include a will and identified that a living trust may be used to complement or replace some of the planning tools you have used in the past.

Some of the most common advantages of a living trust include:

  •      You ensure that your beneficiaries avoid the probate process for assets placed inside the trust.
  •      The savings of court proceedings and probate later on in your life can be significant.
  •      A living trust is flexible and can be cancelled at any time.
  •      A trust is relatively easy to amend.
  •      Trusts are often more difficult to contest than a will.
  •      Your trust is a private document, and rarely enters the public record. A will, on the other hand, is filed in the Probate Court and is available to anyone who wants to to read it.

Putting together a living trust requires thinking about your current documents, the assets you have currently in your estate, and how you would like to pass them on to your beneficiaries. This can be accomplished by setting up a phone call or an in-person consultation with an estate planning attorney in MA who has extensive experience managing living trusts and providing you with necessary guidance about how to protect your interests going forward.


Incorporating New Digital Technology into Your Estate Planning

A recent survey revealed that up to 63% of people don’t know what happens to their digital or online assets after they pass away. Whether it’s iCloud, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other online application, experienced and knowledgeable estate planning advice goes a long way into the digital and advanced technology as of now.

Many people employ a number of different types of digital assets, whether it’s an online retail account, a website or a blog, music sites, retailer apps and more. In most of these cases people will need your password or username information to log in and carry out any of your wishes.

Make sure that you have a secure inventory of these digital assets and a way for your loved ones to be able to access this information if something were to suddenly happen to you. You also need to realize that specific rules may apply with service agreements and digital executors, that make these tools unique. Online tools, for example, may be affected by the revised uniform fiduciary access to Digital Assets Act of 2015. This allows someone to determine the ultimate disposition of a digital asset.

Google’s inactive account manager will automatically alert someone if their account remains unused for a set period of time. Failing to respond to the alert in a timely fashion allows Google to notify a family member or a friend or the person you have named as your digital executor to confirm your death prior to carrying out instructions.

If you have digital assets- and you probably do- make sure you review the application’s terms of service. In addition to safely storing your own passwords somewhere, you might want to figure out if there are any website-specific rules you need to follow to allow someone else into your account after you pass away.

Do you need more information on what you should do with personal property, including digital media? Contact a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer for more information.


Top Tips for Getting Along with Family Members During the Holidays

Even though the holidays are a hard-earned chance to relax towards the end of the year and get some time off work, they can produce additional stress and anxiety for people who are concerned about spending greater time with their family.

Family members during the holidays can cause a lot of issues with establishing boundaries and carrying on traditions or creating new traditions. Several tips that can help you to keep the peace with your family members include:

  •       Don’t be sensitive. Don’t take everything personally as this can lead to unnecessary issues with your loved ones.
  •       Prepare your balancing act. You’ll need to balance time, particularly if you’re married, between your family and your spouse’s family. Establishing traditions and clear boundaries can be extremely helpful. It is often both important to include time to spend around family as well as away from family. Don’t allow one family to occupy all of the time.
  •       Take a break when necessary. Make sure that you don’t take time just for both sides of the family, but also to consider time for yourself. Reading a book, going for a run, stepping outside or taking a bath are a couple of ways you can step away from family drama.
  •       Avoid political debates. Even though family members can discuss difficult topics like religion and politics, the holidays often enhance the potential for disagreements. The holidays are not the right time to engage in political debates. So leave them to the candidates.
  •       Look for the good in everyone. When you can look for the good in each one of your family members, you will be less likely to lash out and get frustrated with their behavior if it rubs you the wrong way. Try to focus on thinking about one to two good things about every person in your family and this will keep your mind off any frustrating events.

If it’s difficult to bring up tough subjects like estate planning, religion, or politics, these may need to be tabled for the future.



Americans’ Most Common Retirement Fears in 2017

Retirement is supposed to be exciting and the conclusion to your working career, however, it can also lead to some fears if you are not appropriately prepared. A new TransAmerica study indicates that American workers are dealing with fears about health and financial security in retirement.

As you might expect, healthcare and longevity both factor heavily into anxiety over the retirement process.

The most common fears that showed up in the survey of retirees included:

  •       Up to 51% of American workers are concerned about outliving their investments and their savings.
  •       Current employees are concerned their social security will be eliminated or minimized in the future.
  •       Long term care expenses are on the rise and Americans are concerned about paying for it.
  •      Cognitive decline is an issue that is currently worried about by 35% of workers.
  •       Lack of affordable and adequate health care since Medicare only goes so far and the costs not covered by Medicare can be catastrophic. This is why 32% of the survey respondents listed this as a major retirement fear.

Planning ahead can give you much more peace of mind and confidence about how you approach your individual retirement. It’s important to state necessary planning steps now to feel confident about how you approach the prospect of estate planning. Look ahead to a more confident future for both you and your loved ones by thinking about retirement and estate planning together. Scheduling a consultation today with an experienced estate planning lawyer is helpful.



Retirees Spending a Large Amount of Their Federal Benefits on Medical Costs

A recent study found that retirees are spending more than one-third of total Social Security benefits on out of pocket medical expenses in 2014. Even when considering other sources of income for retirees, medical spending took at least an 18% chunk of seniors’ retirement income.

A typical retiree can expect to outlay $4,274 each year on medical costs, not including those associated with long term care. Insurance premiums alone, according to the research published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, made up two-thirds of that total because the premiums are extremely high.

Medical costs for Medicare beneficiaries are important to consider for anyone nearing retirement, since those expenses are expected to grow faster than increases in Social Security benefits beyond 2018.

Meaning that retirees have to put a growing portion of their social security income towards medical care. The primary take away from this research study is that even for those individuals who live on their own and did not use long term care, the expenses associated with medical out of pocket costs are extremely high and a large portion of their income and those spending numbers are only anticipated to grow in the future.

If you have questions about how to best protect the assets you have worked so hard to accumulate over the course of your life, and how to pass them on by minimizing taxes and ensuring a smooth transition, consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney in Massachusetts should be your next step.