Planning for Life

5 Issues to Consider When Creating a Special Needs Trust - Massachusetts

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 5, 2012

By Harry S. Margolis

While day-to-day obligations can certainly get in the way, at some point as a parent of a child with special needs you will need to create a special needs trust to shelter and manage whatever you may leave the child.  This is the only safe way to make sure that the funds you leave are protected and well managed and that the child, who by then is probably an adult, can continue to qualify for vital public benefits.

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Here are some of the questions you will need to consider in guiding their attorney to create the trust:

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Topics: special needs planning, Estate Planning, trusts

Social Security Benefits Denied Children Conceived After Death of Dad

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on May 23, 2012

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Topics: Estate Planning, social security

What Can Jim Morrison’s Simple Will Teach Us About Estate Planning?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 29, 2012

By Jeffrey A. Bloom

It’s a bit of ancient history, but Jim Morrison’s will highlights a misunderstanding in estate planning that is still common today -- what happens to the balance of a bequest when the beneficiary dies.  The Doors lead singer’s will provided that his entire estate would pass to his girlfriend Pamela Courson, provided she survived him by three months.  If she didn’t, then his property would instead pass to his brother and sister.  Well, his girlfriend did survive Morrison by three months, but by less then three years.  And when she died in 1974, Morrison’s property all passed to the girlfriend’s parents –- not his parents or brother and sister.

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Topics: Estate Planning

What is a Life Estate and Why Would You Want One? - Massachusetts

Posted by Maggie Lorenzo on April 9, 2012

By Harry S. Margolis

What is a life estate?

            The term “life estate” refers to property that is owned by an individual only through the duration of his or her lifetime. Therefore, it’s always for an indefinite period of time.  We usually encounter life estates when dealing with real estate.  When you have a life estate, you are called the “life tenant.”  For example, you can sell or give your home to your children, but retain a “life estate,” thereby reserving the right to live in, use, enjoy, and control the home until you die.  Your children would be called the “remaindermen.”   

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Topics: long-term care planning, Estate Planning

The Rules in Massachusetts if You Don't Have a Will

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 3, 2012

By Harry S. Margolis

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When Massachusetts adopted its own version of the Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) in 2012, it changed what happens to your estate if you die without a will, technically called dying "intestate."  The results depend on whether you're married, have children or have living parents.  The rules are very specific.  Here are a few examples:

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Topics: Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, Estate Planning, will in massachusetts

Why Medicaid Planning Isn't for Everybody - Massachusetts

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 2, 2012

By Harry S. Margolis


My new client was recently widowed.  She is healthy, living on her own in the house she shared with her husband for many decades.  She is comfortable financially with significant savings in addition to the home, but by no means wealthy.  Her four children all have families of their own and they and their spouses have good jobs, so they don't need her financial support.

I met with her and her son. They asked whether the mom should put her home, and perhaps some of her savings, into an irrevocable trust in order to protect them in the event she needs long-term care.  She also expressed her steadfast wish to stay at home.

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Topics: asset protection, long-term care planning, Estate Planning, MassHealth, MassHealth planning

The Descendants Illustrates an Estate Planning Riddle - The Rule Against Perpetuities

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 11, 2011

By Harry S. Margolis

The George Clooney character in The Descendants is under pressure to sell extremely valuable Hawaiian land held in trust for his family for over a hundred years because if he doesn't act soon the trust will terminate with the property being distributed outright to dozens of family members.  They might never agree among themselves on what to do with the property without expensive and extensive litigation.3 george clooney 0509 lg 19068806

The reason the trust will end?  The "rule against perpetuities," the bugaboo of many a first-year law student. 

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Topics: trusts, rule against perpetuities, Estate Planning

Is Guardianship Necessary When a Child with Special Needs Turns 18?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 21, 2011

By Jeffrey A. Bloom

The law deems us to be of full legal capacity when we reach age 18, unless we’re incapacitated for some reason other than insufficient age. And we’re presumed to be competent until a court decides otherwise. So what should parents do when they have a special needs child who is about to turn 18? As with most things, there is no hard and fast rule or simple answer.

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Topics: guardianship, special needs planning, Estate Planning, Legal profession

What Does "Maintenance, Comfort and Support" in Trust Really Mean?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on October 18, 2011

By Harry S. Margolis

Trusts commonly provide that distributions may be made for the "reasonable maintenance, comfort and support" of the beneficiary. These are often part of the so-called "HEMS" standard -- "health, education, maintenance and support" -- that the Internal Revenue Service has deemed to create a safe harbor. If distributions are limited to this standard, they will not be deemed to belong to the trustee when she dies. But what do these words really mean? 

The case of  Harootian v. Douvadjian (80 Mass. App. Ct. 565, October 4, 2011) helps answer this question, and the answer is that these words give very wide discretion to the trustee. Andrew H. Ansbigian left a trust for the benefit of his wife, Beatrice, and also named her as trustee.  The trust provided that she could make distributions for her own "support in reasonable comfort and maintenance."

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Topics: Estate Planning, trusts

What to Do About Dueling Powers of Attorney

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on September 22, 2011

By Harry S. Margolis

My client acts as agent for her father under a longstanding durable power of attorney.  Unfortunately, tensions are developing between her and her brother who has been consulting with other attorneys about asking their father to execute a new durable power of attorney appointing him.iStock-637904234.jpg

My client wants to know how we can stop this from happening and why the doctor's declaration that their father is no longer competent isn't sufficient.

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Topics: guardianship, family dispute, Estate Planning

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