Planning for Life

Lessons from Henry's Boys: The Rights of the Intellectually Disabled in the Workplace

Posted by Karen B. Mariscal on January 20, 2015

By Karen B. Mariscal
"Love and work...work and love, that's all there is." --Sigmund Freud

Work gives life meaning. We all want to contribute - it is part of being human. My 90-year-old grandmother scolds me to get out of the way so that she can do the dishes. My severely autistic son insists on emptying the dishwasher. But in this Internet age of technology, in which it seems that just about everything requires a college degree, finding jobs for the intellectually disabled is getting more and more difficult.

We as a society need to think a lot harder about how we can employ the thousands of intellectually handicapped adults who come of age every year. They need to work. Unfortunately the work they are going to find is probably not the kind of work the rest of us will want to do, and we need to find the right balance.

The New York Times recently published another piece on the so-called “Henry’s Boys” – men recruited from Texas institutions decades ago to eviscerate turkeys, only to wind up living in virtual servitude, without many basic rights. The Times located Leon Jones in South Carolina, who may be the last working member of Henry’s Boys. The article is heart-breaking, and shows what can happen to handicapped people who do not have anyone looking out for them. (Read: Guardianship and Special Needs Trusts are important!)

In its excellent expose that it published in March 2014 the Times goes to great lengths to describe the truly disgusting work that Henry’s Boys did to slaughter and butcher the turkeys, which is one of most compelling manifestos against factory farming that I have ever read. But the point is that no one should be forced to do that kind of work, and certainly not for the kind of pay the men were receiving.

The employers of Henry’s Boys may have thought that they were doing the men a favor by taking them out of institutions and giving them work. In a world where the men had no other options, they might be right. Turkey slaughtering aside, sometimes we need to remind ourselves that what seems like terrible work for you may not be terrible for them. Just because I don’t want to do a certain job all day does not mean it wouldn’t be great for my disabled son. But he needs to be compensated appropriately, especially if he is doing a job that others do not want to do.

In my son’s case, given his disabilities, being compensated appropriately means he makes less than minimum wage. Federal law allows this: An exemption to the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 allows businesses to obtain a special wage certificate, called Section 14 (c), to pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage, under the theory that such workers will produce less than workers who are not disabled. Although disability law advocates want this law repealed, the fact is it has allowed thousands of people to work and get paid, where they otherwise might have been considered unemployable.

Massachusetts is working to close all sheltered workshops in the next decade or so. This is an admirable goal, and one we support, because we believe it is in everyone’s interests to stop isolating intellectually handicapped people and get them out into the community. But it assumes that alternate forms of work can be provided. The policy would be disastrous to anyone who was happily employed at a workshop and is left sitting around with nothing to do.

Last summer, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act into law, which prohibits individuals with disabilities who are 24 or younger from working for below the minimum wage unless they try a competitive job first. This is a good step, although in my view it is unlikely to affect many people. Each of us needs to keep thinking about opportunities for the disabled to work and be productive, in whatever capacity they are capable.
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Topics: special needs

How Much Does MassHealth Pay Nursing Homes?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 20, 2015

By Harry S. Margolis

Families of nursing home residents often want to know what MassHealth is paying for the care of their loved ones. This can be difficult to determine because the rates are different for each facility and for each patient, depending on his or her level of care. But it's important because MassHealth often has a right to recover its expenses at the death of the nursing home resident in the form of a claim for estate recovery against a home, as the beneficiary of an annuity, or under the terms of a (d)(4)(A) or (d)(4)(C) trust.It helps to know what to expect.

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Topics: nursing home costs, masshealth, nursing home, Massachusetts Senior Care Association

5 Steps to Avoid Outliving Your Money

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 13, 2015

By Harry S. Margolis

The first issue of a new UBS publication, Your Wealth & Life, focuses on "Navigating longevity," or how to make sure your savings and investments last as long as you do. This is especially important as our odds of living long -- and long after retirement -- increase. Half of today's 65-year-olds will live to 85 or older; women have almost a one in three chance of living to age 90; and for a couple there's a 50% chance that one of the spouses will live to age 90 or beyond.

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Topics: retirement, social security, social security benefits, retirement planning

5 Estate Planning Tips for the Non-Nuclear Family

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 6, 2015

By Harry S. Margolis

Do you have a Leave It to Beaver family -- two opposite-gender parents, one or more kids, all healthy and thriving? If so, you can probably use an pretty standard, off-the-shelf estate plan. But if not, it's not as simple and you have a lot of company.

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Topics: estaste planing, trust, prenuptial agreement, intestacy

How to Tailor Your Asset Protection Trust

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 30, 2014

By Harry S, Margolis

Traditional trust law permits parents to leave funds for their children and grandchildren in a way that protects the inherited assets from creditors, double estate taxation, in the event of divorce, and from being lost to in laws in the event of the death of a child. Depending on which of these goals the the grantor of the trust seeks to achieve, the trust must have one or more features that restrict access and control by the beneficiaries.

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Topics: asset protection, family protection trusts

Why is Long-Term Care Planning So Complicated?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 23, 2014

By Harry S. Margolis

I've been thinking about why long-term care planning is so complicated. The reason is that the future can take so many paths, from no need for care to a long-term nursing home placement, with one or more stops in between. The difficulty of predicting how we will fare is compounded when considering planning for a couple rather than for a single individual.

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Topics: long-term care planning, nursing home care

Dueling Deeds: An Example of Why Legal Work Must be by The Book

Posted by Alexandra Lowe on December 19, 2014

By Alexandra Lowe

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals, in Allen v. Allen (Mass. App. Ct., No. 13-P-605, September 16, 2014), affirmed that a property conveyance from mother to son did not take precedence over a subsequent transfer due to a defective acknowledgement of the mother’s signature.  At issue in the case are two conflicting deeds transferring a family home.  Both transfers were signed by the grantor and recorded at the registry of deeds. 

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New Study Reports Decreased Nursing Home Risk

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 16, 2014

By Harry S. Margolis

The Boston College Center for Retirement Research has released the results of a new analysis which reports a higher than previously-reported likelihood that Americans over age 65 will need long-term care, but a lower likelihood that they will spend a long time in a nursing home. The study, Long-Term Care: How Big a Risk?, compares recent data to a 1999 report and finds that:

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Topics: nursing home care

The Effect of the Market on Retirement Solvency

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 9, 2014

By Harry S. Margolis

While the ups and downs of the market can have a favorable or deleterious effect on savings and investments while we're saving for retirement, they have a much larger effect on solvency during retirement. This was illustrated by financial planners Amy Lampert and Richard Belofsky of The Bulfinch Group speaking at our firm's monthly First Monday Lunch for Professionals.

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Topics: retirement planning

Beware of Deed Scams

Posted by Christina T. Vidoli on December 3, 2014

By Christina T. Vidoli

Homeowners beware: Some unscrupulous companies are trying to get owners to pony up for a copy of their deed, but it’s a scam.

Recently, several clients have contacted us to inquire about a notice they received in the mail that resembles an invoice from a company with the name “Record Transfer Service” of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  The notice instructs them to send $83 to the company in exchange for a copy of their deed.  Each of the clients who have reported receiving this notice had recently made a change to the title of real estate, all of which is public information. Many people mistakenly believe they are required to pay the fee to get a copy of their deed and willingly send the money.  And as long as you receive the documents you’ve paid for, there’s nothing illegal about it.  By law, the companies are required to include a disclaimer on the notices, but many people overlook it and wind up becoming victims of this scam.  You can get this document yourself—for 50 cents per page if you go to the Registry of Deeds in the county where your property is located, $1.00 per page if you mail in a request, and some counties allow you to print a copy for free from the Registry’s website.

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