Planning for Life

Harry S. Margolis

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Risking Old Age in America

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 17, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

Almost 30 years ago, my father wrote a book titled Risking Old Age In America, which described the plight of seniors in the United States who faced severe income gaps, limited assistance for care at home and deplorable nursing homes. A lot has changed since then, but many of the same challenges persist or have gotten worse.IMG_2097.jpg

With the advent of the assisted living industry, there's an alternative to nursing homes. Home care services have expanded as has government assistance to pay for home care. Nursing homes have improved, and seniors enter them later in life when they need more care, meaning fewer are institutionalized for year after year.

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Topics: Retirement Planning

Accounting Firm Gets into the Practice of Law: Is this the Future for the Legal Profession?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 10, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

The recent announcement the Big Four accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC)iStock-818880716.jpg that it is opening a law firm in Washington, D.C., could be the harbinger of revolutionary change in the practice of law. In the United States, law firms operate under archaic rules that limit law firm ownership to lawyers. This is why all law firms are partnerships rather than corporations. It's also why most law firms are under capitalized since they can't raise money from non-attorney investors or have an IPO like other businesses. As a result, they do not have the resources to invest in the systems and personnel that would permit them to modernize more quickly and provide more efficient and cost effective services to clients.

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Topics: Legal profession

7 Reasons to Create a Family Protection Trust, and 4 Not To

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 26, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

The other day I met with a husband and wife and their adult son to discuss the parents' estate plan. We discussed tax planning, avoiding probate and steps to provide for financial management if either or both spouses become incapacitated.iStock-629864928.jpg

Then I told the son that he and his sister have a choice. When they inherit from their parents they can either have everything distributed outright to them or have it remain in trust for their benefit. We call these "family protection trusts." As I explained to the son, family protection trusts provide the following benefits:

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Topics: Estate Planning, trusts

If Your Trust Isn't Working, Don't Recant, Decant

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 19, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

Two recent cases decided by the Supreme Judicial Court, Morse v. Kraft (466 Mass. 92, 2013) and Ferri v. Powell-Ferri (476 Mass. 651, 2017), have confirmed and arugably expanded the power of trustees to transfer trust assets to new trusts to better carry out the goals of the trust grantors in creating the trusts in the first place. iStock-177700114.jpgThe Ferri case permitted the trustee to transfer funds into a new, more restrictive trust even though the trust beneficiary had the right to withdraw the funds from the original trust, since the trustee had the power to distribute the funds to other beneficiaries.

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Topics: MassHealth, MassHealth planning, trusts

Should My Lawyer Be a Member of NAEPC, AAEPA, ACTEC, NAELA, etc.?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 12, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

A financial planner recently asked me the following:

Second, because this question comes up from time to time, what organization of estate planning attorneys do you recommend I use as a general resource?  I just googled "estate planning attorney organizations", but I found several:

  • NAEPClogo.png
  • AAEPA
  • ACTEC
  • NNEPA
  • NAELA
  • AATEELA

Which one should I start with?  Assume the clients have assets of $1-$3M - not enough to worry about federal estate taxes, but big enough to be somewhat complicated, and definitely worth updating the will, doing the business and health care POAs, etc.

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Topics: Estate Planning, Legal profession

Are You Aging Wisely? Advice From Those Walking the Path

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 5, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

A local psychologist (formerly a lawyer) and her 97-year-old father have recently published an inspiring volume, Aging Wisely . . . Wisdom of Our Elders, 128414173X.jpgof more than 100 essays, and a few poems, by 73 contributors commenting on what they've learned, sometimes painfully, during their lives. Irving I. Silverman and Ellen Beth Siegel divide the selections into 19 parts, including Life Stories, Using Internal Strengths, Work and Retirement, The Meanings of Success, and Coping with Losses.

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Topics: Aging Population, aging

Why Are Legal Documents So Long?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on August 29, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

Have you ever wondered why legal documents are so long and why they contain so much gobbledygook? For instance why are wills called "Last Will and Testament" rather than simply "My Will"? And speaking of that, what's a "testament"?fountain-pen-pocket-watch-on-a-last-will-and-testament-picture-id589584162.jpg

Why do durable powers of attorney go on for five pages when they could just say:

I appoint my son, Joe, to handle my finances and legal matters in the event I become incapacitated.

And what's with this word "durable"?

And have you ever seen a legal release? They're the worst.

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Where's Your Dog? The Answer Might Affect Your Estate Taxes

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on August 22, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

Massachusetts taxes all estates exceeding $1 million. Florida and most other states do not. While a recent case involved New York state income taxes rather than estate taxes, a crucial element was location of the taxpayer's dog played in important role in the case of Matter of Blatt.

Gregory Blatt grew up in Massachusetts, but moved to New York for law school at Columbia.

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MassHealth Planning is Not for Everyone

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on August 15, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

Everyone who is retired or considering retiring faces the question of whether they have enough money, especially now that few people have pensions that pay for life. This involves a number of unknowns, including how long they'll live, their investment returns and their living costs. But the biggest uncertainty is whether they'll need long-term care.

The Query

Following are excerpts from an email I recently received from a long-time client:

The only thing that frightens me is that I will run out of funds sooner than later. Let me reassure you first of all. I feel fine, in fact I’m in very good health, active, living independently, driving, traveling, socializing, etc etc. I’m now 88 years old (89 in January) and people “can’t believe how well I look”!

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Topics: long-term care planning, MassHealth planning

Is Medicaid Planning Ethical?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 26, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

In his most recent personal finance column, New York Times reporter Ron Lieber ron-lieber-thumbLarge[1].jpgaddresses "The Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid." As Lieber explains in this and prior articles, Medicaid has become the primary source of payment for long-term care services in the United States. But it is essentially a health care program for the poor and has set asset, and sometimes income, limits for determining if someone is poor enough to qualify for benefits.

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Topics: long-term care planning, Medicaid, MassHealth planning

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