Planning for Life

You Don't Need a Lawyer for Your Advance Directive

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on May 19, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


While we include health care proxies in all the estate planning packages we prepare for clients, you don't need a lawyer to get one. Hospitals and other medical facilities commonly hand out the form created by the Massachusetts Medical Society, which you can also download here.

Just print out the form, choose your agent and a successor, in case your original choice is unavailable, and sign the document before two witnesses.

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Topics: health-care decision making, HIPAA release, health care proxy, coronavirus

Got Questions? We've Got Answers

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on May 12, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Did you know that we have a plethora of information about estate, long-term care, and special needs planning on our website? And it's in all sorts of formats depending on how you prefer to get your information and how in-depth you'd like to delve into a particular topic. We have articles, blog posts, legal guides, podcasts, and short instructive videos.

Here's a guide:


We have dozens of articles on topics as varied as "So, You've Been Appointed Trustee: What Now?" to Is Guardianship Necessary When a Child with Special Needs Turns 18? to "44 Questions to Ask a Nursing Home." Check them all out here.

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Topics: Estate Planning

"For the duration . . ."

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on May 5, 2020

closed-for-the-duration-coronavirus-Wellesley-MABy Harry S. Margolis

With the uncertainty of our coronavirus shutdown, my mother has recalled a phrase she heard often as a child during World War II: "For the duration."

Gas rationing was supposed to last "for the duration." Street lights would be dimmed "for the duration." Americans were asked to keep their mouths closed "for the duration" since "loose talk can cost lives." Factories switched from producing consumer goods to military hardware "for the duration."

How long was "for the duration?" No one knew; except that it was as long as it took to win the war.

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Topics: coronavirus

Remote Notarization Law Now Available in Massachusetts

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 28, 2020

By Laura Goodman and Harry S. Margolis


Last week, the Massachusetts legislature (finally) passed legislation permitting the remote notarization and witnessing of legal documents during the pandemic—the 45th of 50 states to take this step, and Governor Baker signed the bill into law on Monday, April 27th.

While we can now execute wills and other documents remotely, the legislation doesn't make it easy. Here are its main provisions and requirements:

  • The law only lasts until three days after the end of the state of emergency, which is now May 18th.
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Topics: Estate Planning, coronavirus, document execution

Why Don't We Have Virtual Notarization Yet? (Actually, now we do)

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 21, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Editor's Note: April 23rd, the Massachusetts legislature (finally) passed a bill to permit remote notarization and witnessing of legal documents during the coronavirus pandemic—the 45th of the 50 states to take this step. It didn’t happen without a bit of last minute drama. The Senate passed its bill on Tuesday, April 21st. On Thursday, the House passed a similar bill, but added the requirement that all remote document execution sessions be recorded and the recording saved for 10 years. Fortunately, the Senate then quickly approved the House’s version of the bill. Now we just await Gov. Baker’s signature.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, a bill to allow online notarization and witnessing of documents during the shutdown has been wending its slow way through the Massachusetts legislature. It was first slowed down by different constituencies seeking tweaks in the law. The first proposal only permitted attorneys and paralegals to do online notarizations, but a revised bill expands this to non-attorney or paralegal notaries. As reported in The Boston Globe, it has the support of a wide constituency, including lawyers, the real estate industry, and investment companies, such as Fidelity. But still the bill languishes.

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Topics: coronavirus, document execution

Estate Planning in the Time of Coronavirus

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 14, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


As reported in The Sunday Boston Globe, the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic along with either isolation at home or the need for essential workers to go out and risk becoming infected has prompted many Massachusetts residents to consider planning estates for the first time or to complete plans they may have started but let slide several years ago.

We've seen this as well, especially among doctors and other health care professionals on the front line who feel an increased urgency to get their plans in place. The difficulty in these cases is witnessing and notarizing estate planning instruments while maintaining proper social distancing. I described how we've done this in an earlier blog post.

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Topics: Estate Planning, will, coronavirus, document execution

Have Your Go Bag Ready in Case You Fall Ill

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 8, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Attorney Peter T. Clark of Mansfield has circulated great advice to members of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He suggests that family members of anyone who is sick at home or more vulnerable to the coronavirus due to age or underlying condition prepare a "go bag" of items the person may need in the hospital. Remember, in this case, family members may well be barred from visiting and bringing these supplies later.

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Topics: hospital care, coronavirus

Who Gets Cash Found in House?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 7, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


We recently had an inquiry about the following situation. The decedent's will said:

"Herman shall receive all contents of the house."

It also said the rest of the property would go to beneficiaries other than Herman. The house contained $4,700 in cash, a bank check of $3,000, and an uncashed personal check made out to the decedent.

So, who gets these items, Herman or the people who are entitled to the rest of the estate?

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Topics: probate, Probate Estate Administration, tangible personal property

What is Settlement Planning?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 1, 2020

A settlement or award of damages in a personal injury case means the end of litigation. It’s the biggest step – but only the first step – in assuring your financial future. You need to make sure that the award is maximized, that the funds are safeguarded, and that you preserve your eligibility for public benefits. This involves a number of issues, including:

Resolving Liens – Personal injury settlements and awards to minor or disabled plaintiffs are often subject to claims by Medicare, Medicaid (MassHealth), or private insurers. These must be resolved prior to any distribution of funds. It's often best that this be done as part of settlement negotiations, because a lien holder—the state, federal government, or insurance company—has an incentive to help the case settle. Your personal injury attorney will resolve any of these liens as part of the litigation.

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Topics: Medicare, special needs planning, MassHealth, personal injury settlement

Amazon Scam Almost Got Me

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on April 1, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis

Scams are getting more sophisticated, making them easier to fall for. My recent experience is a case in point. I received the following email purportedly from Amazon reporting on the delivery of an iPad from my account to a woman in Austin, Texas, who I had never heard of.


It looks authentic, doesn't it?

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Topics: scams

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