Planning for Life

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
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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

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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

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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

8 Dos and 2 Don'ts for Serving as Trustee

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 2, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis

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Whether it's an honor or a burden (or both), if you've been appointed to serve as trustee of a trust, here are 10 dos and don'ts to follow to make sure you don't trip over any hurdles:

  1. Do read the trust document. It sets out the ground rules under which you will operate. So you need to understand them completely.
  2. Do set up a checking account for the trust. All income and expenses should go through this account. While you can and should invest the money, a checking account will enable to to make and track distributions and payments.
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Topics: trustee

6 Rules of Thumb in Choosing Your Agent Under Your Durable Power of Attorney

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 25, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis

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Our clients often have to make difficult choices when deciding who to name as their agent or agents on their durable powers of attorney. Married clients usually name each other and, if they have children, one or more as alternates. Unmarried clients or married clients whose spouses have dementia usually name children, if they have them.

But what if you don't have children, or you don't have children who you can trust with this responsibility? Or what if you have several children, how do you choose among them? Will picking one child over another create resentment and cause friction among your children? On the other hand, would naming several create the opportunity for continuing conflicts.

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Topics: durable power of attorney

5 Reasons to Use a Pooled Trust for MassHealth

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 18, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis

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A recent case in our office highlighted the benefits of using a pooled trust when spending down for MassHealth eligibility. Our client, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, paid privately for his care until he ran down his savings. When we met with his daughter, the client still had about $12,000 in the bank. We explained the option of transferring this money to a pooled trust for her father's benefit as a reserve for her or whatever her father may need.

Under the MassHealth rules, there's no transfer penalty for money deposited in a pooled trust for the benefit of the applicant for coverage.

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Topics: Medicaid planning trust, pooled disability trust

D'Agostino Wins MassHealth Trust Case

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 10, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis

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The MassHealth Board of Appeals recently decided a case involving real estate held by a trust in favor of Patricia D'Agostino's client, a current nursing home resident who had sought coverage beginning in December 2017. The trust had been created by the client's now-deceased husband back in 1995 and held two vacation rental properties.

The Trust in Question

At issue were two provisions in the trust. The first gave the client the right to use and occupy the vacation properties and to receive the net rental income. The second permitted the dissolution of the trust upon agreement of all the beneficiaries and the sale of the trust property with the proceeds being paid to the beneficiaries listed on "the then current schedule of beneficiaries," the couple's children.

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Topics: trusts, MassHealth, vacation house

Timing is Everything: Don’t Wait Too Long to Sue Your Brother

Posted by Lindsey Cavallaro on May 28, 2019

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In general, trustees have a duty of loyalty and care that must be upheld in the management of trust assets and funds. The trustee must only disburse and transfer funds for the benefit of the beneficiaries and for the purposes set out in the terms of the established trust. But what happens when these duties are breached, and the trustee starts transferring funds for their own benefit? For instance, maybe they transfer funds to their own personal bank account and purchase a timeshare in Mexico. This is precisely the alleged situation that divided a family in Whittaker et. al. v. Whittaker (United States District Court, D. Massachusetts, 2019) which they turned into a federal case.

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Topics: family dispute, trusts, trustee

Will the Vacation Home Keep the Family Together or Tear it Apart?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on May 14, 2019

By Harry S. Margolis

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Ahh, the vacation house.

The locus of so many family memories. The place where everyone can get away from their busy lives, relax and spend time with other family members.

Or.

The focus of family disputes over maintenance, finances, and use.

How can you assure the former and avoid the latter?

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Topics: vacation house

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