Planning for Life

Harry S. Margolis

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What Do You Do When the Bank is Unreasonable?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 2, 2018

By Harry S. Margolis

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We advise our clients to execute durable powers of attorney to make sure that someone can step in and take care of their legal and financial matters in the event of incapacity. Sometimes, individuals use these documents to take advantage of seniors and on very rare occasions banks are held responsible when that happens. As a result, they are often reluctant to accept durable powers of attorney for their intended purpose. This can cause real problems and costs for families.

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Topics: durable power of attorney

What's In the New Tax Law?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 26, 2017

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By Harry S. Margolis

While it will take some time to understand all of the effects of the new tax law, and most of it has to do with reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, here's some of what we know that relates to individual taxpayers. But before we get into the details, be aware that almost everything listed below sunsets after 2025, with the tax structure reverting to its current form in 2026 unless Congress acts between now and then. The corporate tax rate cut does not sunset. Here are the principal changes:

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Topics: income taxes, estate taxes, tax law

Should My Financial Planner Be a CFP, CLU, or a What?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 19, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

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Acronyms, acronyms. Does your financial planner have a lot of initials after her name? Is she a CFP, a CLU, a ChFC or a CFA? What do these designations mean and do they matter?

As with all designations and certifications, they matter a bit, but only a bit. Some advisors with lots of designations will not have their clients' best interests at heart. Others with no designations are very knowledgeable and take great care of their clients. That said, these designations can be used as one of several data points in choosing your financial advisor.

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Topics: financial planning

The Estate Tax: Going, Going, Gone?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 5, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

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Both the House and Senate versions of the tax bill would increase the exemption for estate taxes from the current $5.5 million for individuals (and $11 million for married couples) to $11 million (and $22 million, respectively). The House bill would ultimately eliminate the tax all together in 2024. This is the culmination of a long-term campaign against the estate tax which began more than two decades ago when the threshold for taxation was just $600,000.

Already, the result is that only about 5,000 estates per year pay estate taxes, down from 52,000 in 2000.

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Topics: estate taxes

Can You Name More Than One Person on a Health Care Proxy?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 28, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

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We advise all of our clients to name an agent under a health care proxy to make health care decisions for them when and if they cannot do so for themselves. Many clients want to name more than one person to this role.

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Topics: health-care decision making, proxy

What Happens If Your Trustee Can't Serve?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 14, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

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So you've appointed your brother-in-law as the trustee for a trust for your children in case you die before they reach age 25. Or he and his wife have appointed you as trustee on a special needs trust for their daughter with Down's syndrome. Or, finally, your mother has her assets in a revocable trust. In any of these situations, what happens if the trustee becomes incapacitated?

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Topics: trustee

What Would the House Tax Bill Mean for Seniors?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 7, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

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Perhaps we shouldn't be concerned with the House Republicans' proposed tax bill. With no Democratic support, a slim Republican majority in both houses, and a somewhat more moderate Republican majority in the Senate, it is unlikely to become law in its current form, if at all. On the other hand, the Republicans need a victory and will do everything they can to pass the law in something close to its current form.

So, what does it mean for seniors and people with disabilities? The two largest impacts would probably result from the projected loss of tax revenue and the elimination of the medical expense deduction.

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Topics: Medicare, income taxes, seniors, Medicaid

Assisted Living Facilities Are Subject to Landlord Tenant Law

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 26, 2017

By Harry S. Margolis

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Assisted living facilities often require that new residents pay a one-time "community fee" as well as last month's rent before moving in. A resident of one of Benchmark Senior Living's 29 facilities in Massachusetts recently sued the company alleging that this practice violates protections for tenants. Benchmark responded that as an assisted living facility it is not subject to the same rules. This has long been a claim of the assisted living industry, and it was refuted by the judge in this case.

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Topics: assisted living regulations, assisted living

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

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