Planning for Life

Harry S. Margolis

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M&B Attorneys Win Two MassHealth Trust Hearings

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 11, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

Applicants for MassHealth who have done advance planning involving sheltering assets in irrevocable trusts have been plagued by MassHealth denials of eligibility based on specious legal arguments. This results in fair hearing and court appeals that can sometimes take years. Two of our clients recently received favorable resolution of their cases before the MassHealth Board of Hearings.

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Topics: MassHealth planning, MassHealth

Should You Engage in Massachusetts Estate Tax Planning?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 3, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

 Happy family with dream house

With the threshold for federal estate taxes now at $11.2 million (in 2018) you probably don't have to worry about it or do any planning to avoid it. Very few Americans have federally taxable estates. But the threshold for the Massachusetts residents is $1 million. So, if you live in Massachusetts and your estate is above $1 million -- not so hard if you own a house in many communities in the state -- should you engage in estate tax planning?

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Topics: estate taxes

Managing Risk for Unpredictable Events

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on March 27, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

At a recent conference of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, I spent some time catching up with my old friend and colleague, Paul Sturgul.Paul-Picture-225x300.jpg Paul practices in a very different part of the country from me, in Hurley, Wisconsin, as opposed to Boston's Back Bay. Hurley, which has just over 1,500 residents, is about 100 miles east of Duluth, Minnesota, near the southern shores of Lake Superior. (If you think we've been having a long winter, the average high temperature in Hurley in March is 25 degrees and the average low is 15.)

5536525_WI_Hurley.pngWhile Paul has to drive a lot further to see his clients (he has a second office in Ashland, 38 miles from Hurley), what we do for our clients is surprisingly similar. Here's how Paul describes the essence of elder law:

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Topics: seniors, elder law

MassHealth Denial in Trust Case Overturned

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on March 20, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

In a case argued by Margolis & Bloom senior associate Sarah Hartline, the Essex Superior Court has overturned a MassHealth denial of coverage for a nursing home resident who MassHealth found had countable assets available from a trust she had created.attorney-sarah-foster-headshot-1.jpg

The trust in question in Yanow v. Office of Medicaid (Essex Sup. Ct. CA No. 1677CV00599, March 7, 2018), provided for the payment of income earned on trust assets to the grantor, but barred the distribution of any principal to her. Nevertheless, MassHealth argued that due to an administrative provision in the trust which permits the trustee "to determine what part of the trust property is income and what part is principal" the trustee was able to deem all of the trust property "income" and distribute it to the grantor (the applicant for MassHealth benefits).

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Topics: trusts, MassHealth

Why We Don't Plan: Prunes

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on March 13, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

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Why don't people, especially seniors, plan to protect themselves and their families? The answer, which I learned at a program sponsored by the Boston Estate Planning Council about findings from the MIT Age Lab, can in part be explained by the acronym PRUNE. PRUNE stands the types of information that have emotional impact on us, those that are:

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Topics: Estate Planning, financial planning, aging

Why Are Lawyers So Expensive?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on March 6, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

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Lawyers are too expensive to be affordable by most Americans. The result is that most people who need legal advice and representation don't get it. This can have dire consequences with people losing their homes, getting less than adequate care and even having their lives put at risk. A recent story on National Public Radio described the plight of political asylum applicants who are unrepresented by counsel. Most lose their cases and rather than going back to life-threatening situations, going underground, joining the masses of undocumented immigrants who fear their next traffic stop.

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Topics: Legal profession

Why Most Married Nursing Home Residents Can Get MassHealth Coverage

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on February 20, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

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Most married nursing home residents can obtain MassHealth coverage by using excess assets to purchase a qualifying immediate annuity. Rather, to be totally accurate, it's the spouse of the nursing home resident who must buy the annuity. The reason this works is that while MassHealth imposes limits on the amount of assets the nursing home resident and his spouse may own, there's no limit on the healthy spouse's income. This can be an important device to protect the financial security of spouses of nursing home residents.

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Topics: MassHealth planning, MassHealth

Is Demography Destiny?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on February 13, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

During a recent bike trip in in Vietnam, I was struck by how youthful the country seems. The streets are full of young people on motor scooters. We were told that in a country of 95 million people, there are 35 million motor scooters (called Hondas just like we call tissues Kleenex). Riding the country's web of rural lanes, we passed hundreds of schoolchildren who waved and called “Hello” to us.

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Topics: Aging Population, demographics

How Many Agents Do You Have?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 24, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

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You may have a lot of people who you have appointed to act for you at various times who are your agents. And you may be an agent for a number of other people without thinking about it, or perhaps without even knowing about your role.

Agency relationships can be created in a myriad of ways. Some come about formally via specific nomination in an estate planning document, while others result from a position of trust and authority created in less formal ways. Here are some of the agents you may have or roles in which you may serve:

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Topics: durable power of attorney, trustee, proxy

Be Nice to Your Beneficiaries, or Don't Be Their Trustee

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 16, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

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Dad created an estate plan that distributed three quarters of his estate to three of his children and the fourth quarter in trust for one of his daughters, Elaine, and her two children, Paul and Alicia. He named another daughter, Madeline, and her daughter, Paula, as trustees.

Dad died in 2001. The trust for Elaine and her children originally held $542,042. For the next 15 years, Madeline and Paula distributed nothing to Elaine or her children, until 2016 when a court ordered them to make distributions to Elaine so that she "could pay her medical bills and obtain housing." Madeline and Paula did, however, spend more than $50,000 paying for storage of personal items left to Elaine and paid themselves and their attorney.

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Topics: trusts, trustee

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