Planning for Life

What are Trust Protectors and Should You Have One?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 25, 2014

Trust protectors have become a more common feature of irrevocable trusts in recent years because they offer flexibility and oversight. Having originated with off-shore trusts that are used primarily to protect assets from creditors, trust protectors are now found in special needs and domestic asset protection trusts and sometimes in trusts used for tax planning purposes.

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Topics: trusts, trustee, trust, trust protector

7 Ways a Donor Advised Fund Can Help Your Charitable Giving

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 11, 2014

Donor advised funds are charitable foundations that commit to following the advice of donors in distributing their accounts to charities. Many community foundations, such as The Boston Foundation, manage donor advised funds for their contributors. The contributor takes the charitable tax deduction in the year she contributes to the fund even though she may not pass the funds on to charities for several years. Some have questioned this as a public policy matter, but it has certain benefits for the donor.

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Topics: charitable contributions

Premium Assistance from MassHealth for Private Health Insurance

Posted by Karen B. Mariscal on November 10, 2014

It seems that very few parents of intellectually disabled adult children aged 18-26 know about the MassHealth Standard/CommonHealth Premium Assistance Program, which can provide meaningful financial assistance to those who qualify.

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Topics: masshealth, private insurance,

Are We Elder Law or Elder Care Attorneys?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 4, 2014

Since the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) was founded more than 25 years ago, lawyers who work with seniors have been trying to brand themselves as "elder law" attorneys. Despite this effort, more and more often I hear us referred to as "elder care" attorneys. "Elder law attorneys" still gets almost four times as many results in Google than "elder care attorneys," but that doesn't seem like a lot when there has been no effort made to promote the second term, though the results overlap significantly.

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Topics: elder care law, elder law

Attending The Lion King with my Autistic Son

Posted by Karen B. Mariscal on October 29, 2014

Something incredible happened on Saturday.  Billy and I were ableson,dad,mom to attend one of the best shows ever produced, without any worry that his rocking or singing would disturb anyone.  In fact every other person in the audience seemed to be rocking or talking or singing or clapping or standing up at inopportune times – Autism Speaks sponsored a show just for people on the autism spectrum.  And what a show it was.  I cried at the opening Circle of Life, which is so overwhelming anyway with elephants and zebras coming down the aisles. I looked at the mom next to me, who also had a young adult son with her, and she was crying too.  To think that we could have our 20-something sons finally attend a Broadway show was just too much.

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Topics: special needs

MassHealth Trust Database On Line

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 28, 2014

Previous blog posts have reported on recent MassHealth cases involving irrevocable trusts and the ongoing attacks by MassHealth on trusts that were acceptable until recently. We linked to court and fair hearing decisions on a website created by Plymouth elder law practitioner Brian Barreira. Attorney Barreira has created the Massachusetts Medicaid Trust Law site at to share 

5809877fair hearing decisions, court decisions, legal briefs and other material submitted by elder law practitioners throughout the Commonwealth. Or, as he explains it:

The Massachusetts Medicaid Trust Law blog has been prepared as a resource for Massachusetts citizens and their attorneys who are experiencing denials on MassHealth applications that include irrevocable trusts.

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Topics: MassHealth appeal, irrevocable trusts

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish on Professional Fees?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 21, 2014

We have a client whose husband recently passed away unexpectedly. He left her in a difficult financial situation that includes claims by both the IRS and the Massachusetts Division of Revenue (DOR) for back taxes. Shortly prior to her husband's death, they had negotiated a settlement with the DOR which reduced the claim. They hadn't paid the reduced claim yet because money was short.

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Topics: legal fees

But Not All MassHealth Trust Cases Go the Right Way

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 14, 2014

We recently reported on a superior court decision upholding an irrevocable trust designed to shelter assets as part of long-term care planning. (Click here to read the blog post.) Unfortunately, we have become aware of another decision upholding one of MassHealth arguments against irrevocable trusts, one we felt was so contrary to established trust law that no court would ever go along with it.

In Rita E. Sands vs. Commonwealth of Massachuesetts, Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Office of Medicaid (Suffolk Sup. Ct. CA No. SUCV 2013-3537-A, April 28, 2014), Judge Douglas H. Wilkins holds that all of the funds in an irrevocable income-only trust are available to the trust's grantor because the trustee may purchase an annuity, thus converting unavailable principal to available income.

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Topics: irrevocable income-only trusts

MassHealth Reversed in Another Trust Case

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 10, 2014

Over the last couple of years, MassHealth has been rejecting irrevocable trusts containing terms that it had accepted up until recently. Since many seniors use irrevocable trusts to shelter assets as part of long-term care planning, this has resulted in much uncertainty and cost due to the need for administrative and court appeals. Fortunately, as more cases have gone through the lengthy appeal process litigants are having increasing success in defending the trusts. We can report that my partner, Jeffrey A. Bloom, recently was successful in defending our standard irrevocable trust instrument at an administrative fair hearing.

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Topics: MassHealth appeal, masshealth, irrevocable income-only trusts, O'Leary v. Thorn

10 Questions to Answer Before Moving In

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 10, 2014

It's not just recent college grads moving back in with their parents. So are older children. And more parents are moving in with their kids. This is happening for financial reasons -- two or more can live more cheaply than one -- and in many cases for the children to provide care and companionship to the parents in their later years.

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