Planning for Life

Harry S. Margolis

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Appeals Court Case Potentially Undermines Phannenstiehl Protections

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on August 7, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


The case of Phannenstiehl v. Phannenstiehl (475 Mass. 105, 2016) established the rule that if your parents create a trust for your benefit and leave discretion over distributions in the hands of the trustee, the funds in that trust will not be considered part of the marital estate upon your divorce. (See our description of this case: In Pfannenstiehl Case, MA SJC Affirms Use of Asset Protection Trusts.) A recent Massachusetts Appeals Court decision appears to narrow this rule. 

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Topics: asset protection, divorce, estate taxes

Remaindermen Cannot Force Sale of Property in Life Estate

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on August 5, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Owners of real estate sometimes transfer such property to their children while retaining the right to live in the property for the rest of their lives. Such ownership interests are referred to as "life estates" and give the life estate owners the exclusive right to occupy and even rent out the property during their lives. The children, in this case, are referred to as "remaindermen" and they have a real interest in the property, just no right of possession until the life estate owner dies.

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Topics: MassHealth planning, life estate

SJC Rules on Effect of Out-of-State QTIP Election in Massachusetts

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 29, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Perhaps only of interest to estate planners, but of great interest to them, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled in Shaffer v. Commissioner or Revenue (SJC-12812, July 10, 2020) that out-of-state QTIP trusts are includible in the Massachusetts estates of surviving spouses if the deceased spouse's estate filed a federal QTIP election for the estate. This is probably relevant mostly for larger estates and for older trusts, since given the current $11.58 million federal estate tax threshold, few estates today need to file a federal QTIP election.

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Topics: estate taxes

Enhanced Unemployment Benefit Protects Caregivers and Families

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 28, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


As you no doubt know, the Cares Act enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 a week are slated to end on Friday, July 31st. There's a debate about whether to extend them based on many factors, including the need to keep the economy functioning during the pandemic, the risk that many renters will no longer be able to pay rent and many homeowners will default on their mortgages, what the nation can afford, and the argument that some workers are staying home because they're making more from unemployment than they would from working.

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Topics: caregiving, home care

Autonomy vs. Protection for Older Women

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on July 23, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


In an article in the ACTEC Law Journal titled "What If Granny Wants to Gamble? Balancing Autonomy and Vulnerability in the Golden Years,"  Professor Mary F. Radford of the Georgia State University School of Law discusses the tension between seeking protection of seniors from abuse and neglect while also preserving their autonomy.

Why Older Women

She focuses on older women for two reasons: There are many more of them, because they live longer than men on average; and they're more likely to be isolated, making them more vulnerable to scams and abuse. The latter factor, of course, is related to the first, since those older women who were married to men are likely to survive them and end up living on their own.

Here are some interesting statistics Prof. Radford cites:

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Topics: revocable trust, scams, autonomy

4 Reasons to Pay Caregivers More

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 29, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


One thing we've learned from the coronavirus pandemic is who's an essential worker and who isn't. It's disturbing that, except for physicians, there's something of an inverse relationship between work that's essential and compensation for doing that work. Investment bankers are not essential. Home care workers are.

There are at least four reasons we need to pay caregivers more, whether they provide care at home or in nursing homes or other senior care facilities: fairness, risk, supply, and quality of care.

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Topics: Caregivers

Law as Prediction: Two Cases I Got Wrong, But My Partners Got Right

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 22, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


The great Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes explained law and legal advice constitutes predictions of how a court will decide a case before it. Or in his more august wording:

The prophecies of what the courts will do in fact, and nothing more pretentious, are what I mean by the law.

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Should You Use a Lawyer or Do It Yourself?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 17, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


Do you have an estate plan? Is it up-to-date?

Why Most People Don't Have Estate Plans

While most people know estate planning is necessary and important, they put it off for a number of reasons, including the following:

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Topics: Estate Planning

System Failures: Policing, Public Health, Education, Housing, Long-Term Care

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 14, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


System Failures in the United States

The coronavirus pandemic and murder of George Floyd have laid bare the failures of public health and policing in the United States. Those failures are not news. We've known that we spend much more per capita on health care than any other nation with uneven results and a system where a health event can bankrupt a family.

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Topics: long-term care planning, MassHealth, Medicaid

We're Reemerging, Carefully

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on June 1, 2020

By Harry S. Margolis


With Governor Baker's partial easing of the stay-at-home order, we are reopening our Wellesley office with a skeletal crew. Here's how it will work:

  1. Limited Staffing. No more than a quarter of our staff will be in the office at the same time.
  2. Face masks. Whenever anyone is outside of their office or workstation, they will wear face masks.
  3. Social Distancing. No adjacent workstations will be occupied at the same time.
  4. Disinfecting. There will be a lot of sanitizing and hand washing going on.
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Topics: coronavirus, document execution

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