Planning for Life

Massachusetts Taxes Real Estate in Estates of Non-Residents

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 24, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis


That house on the Cape or Martha's Vineyard or in the Berkshires, what happens when the owner dies and is not a Massachusetts resident? Is it subject to the Massachusetts estate tax?


And it's a bit complicated.

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Topics: Massachusetts, estate taxes, real estate

Now or Never, MassHealth to Close Door on Pooled Disability Trusts

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 17, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis


Nursing home residents and their families have long used pooled disability trusts to shelter funds for their future needs that are not covered by MassHealth. These may include extra therapies or medical care, entertainment, hiring geriatric care managers, or the costs of maintaining a home. The funds can also be used to pay nursing homes for any gaps in coverage by MassHealth that sometimes occur.

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Topics: MassHealth, disqualifying transfer, pooled disability trust

5 Ways to Divide Tangible Property in an Estate

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 10, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis

tangible property - will - estate-planning-Margolis-and-Bloom

When anyone dies, they’re likely to leave tangible personal property, which is what lawyers call anything you can touch, such as furniture, dishes, silverware, artwork and photo albums. The problem with distributing this property is that you cannot do so exactly equally. In addition, many items may have little or no monetary value but significant sentimental value. So how can you be fair. Here are four methods you might use, or in some instances you might use a combination.

  1. Sell. When the estate includes a few items of significant financial worth that can't be equally distributed among heirs, the property might be sold and the proceeds distributed equally as cash. This is what the family of a friend did. His parents had rescued one valuable painting when fleeing Europe before the Holocaust. which he and his sister sold at auction at Sotheby's.
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Topics: Probate Estate Administration, tangible personal property, personal representative, executor

States Experiment on Long-Term Care, But Where's Massachusetts?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 3, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis

Long-term-care-margolis-and-bloomIn an recent article in The Boston Globe, "As costs mount, states scramble for new ways to pay for late-in-life care," reporter Robert Weisman describes initiatives in states around the country to pay for the growing costs of caring for seniors around the country. While the average cost of care for older Americans will be $266,000 according to one projection, only 7% of Americans over age 50 have long-term care insurance. This huge gap falls both on individual families and state Medicaid programs, MassHealth in Massachusetts.

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Topics: long-term care planning, long-term care insurance

Have You Wondered What You Need to Do as Executor? A Website Provides the Answers

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on August 28, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis


If you've been named as executor or personal representative in someone's will, whether the person has recently died or you know you may need to fill this role in the future, you no doubt wonder what the job will entail. While you will likely hire an attorney to help with the process, it's difficult to get a complete picture of all the steps and details.

12 Step Process

A new website,, now provides such a comprehensive view and a system of keeping track of where you stand in the process. It works in large part as a series of 12 checklists with explanations of each item on the lists. Its 12 steps are as follows:

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Topics: Probate Estate Administration, personal representative, executor

If You Haven't Saved Enough for Retirement, You're Not Alone, and It's Not Your Fault

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on August 20, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis


In her new podcast series, Reset Retirement, New School of Social Research economics professor Teresa Ghilarducci interviews Baby Boomers and others about their retirement situations, which are mostly dire, and experts about why this is the case.

Very few workers today, other than public employees, have pension plans. Instead, except for Social Security, we are all dependent on our own savings. The result is that very few Baby Boomers have enough saved for retirement, with only 15 percent having more than $500,000 in savings according to the following chart:

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Topics: Retirement Planning

Social Security Decisions Can Have a Major Impact on Your Benefits

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 30, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis

margolis-bloom-social-securityIf you are in your 60s, you have some major decisions to make concerning when you begin taking Social Security which can impact your lifetime benefit level and that of your spouse, if any. The longer you postpone receiving benefits up until age 70, the higher your monthly payment will be for the rest of your life. But you may have to live a long time to make up for the years of benefits you will have missed by waiting until age 70.

A colleague who advises clients on these issues recently related a story of how important these choices can be (with some of the facts changed to protect the innocent, and not so innocent). It's also a cautionary tale for lawyers who might advise in areas where they don't know what they don't know.

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Topics: social security

Senior Tax Breaks: Boon or Ticking Bomb?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 23, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis

As in many states, towns in Massachusetts may allow low-income seniors to defer real estate taxes until their homes are sold or after they die. The towns may charge interest of up to 8% interest on these unpaid taxes, which can compound year after year. While some towns that offer this benefit charge no or low interest, three out of four charge the maximum of 8% per year. This can be a big surprise when the children ultimately inherits property that has been gutted in value.

That happened in a case reported last year in The Boston Globe.

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Topics: seniors, housing policy ,, real estate, senior tax deferral

Is MassHealth Really a State Budget Buster?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 16, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis


At a cost to the Commonwealth of almost $17 billion in fiscal year 2019, MassHealth makes up 36% of the total state budget. But according to a recent report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), about half this expense is reimbursed by the federal government, bringing net MassHealth costs down to $8.4 billion, just under a quarter of the state budget net of federal contributions.

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Topics: MassHealth

7 Questions to Ask Regarding Your Vacation Home

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 9, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis


An old friend recently got in touch regarding his family's vacation home on an island off the Maine coast. He and his three sisters inherited the house from their parents and now one of them wants to be bought out. The other two can't afford to buy her out, but they don't want to lose the house which has sentimental value to them and is still the place their families come for vacation every year.

This situation raises many of the questions that need to be asked and answered when planning for a vacation home, whether by parents or by the next generation when they inherit the house. In this case, the family in fact created a trust that answers many of the important questions, but is a bit ambiguous about what would happen if one or more children wanted to opt out.

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Topics: vacation house

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