Planning for Life

Harry S. Margolis

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Where Should You Live if You Can Live Anywhere?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 19, 2022

By Harry S. Margolis

places to age - margolis-boom-d'agostino-elder law-retirement

For most of us, where we live is driven more by outside influences than by conscious choice. We live where we grew up, went to school, have friends or family, or received a job offer. We are more likely to move from city to city or region to region when we're young, but then we usually settle in with few major moves while we're working and raising families.

For many, this changes upon retirement. Then we're no longer tied to a job site (though with the growth of remote working during Covid, fewer people may be geographically connected even while they're working). If they have children, they may have moved away. Friends also may have moved. Those in the north may find winters increasingly uncomfortable. Those in larger houses may want to "downsize" or cash in on rising real estate prices, which may help finance their retirement. Or simply moving to a lower-cost part of the country can help enable seniors to afford retirement.

The Best Cities for Baby Boomers?

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Topics: baby boomers, Retirement Planning

No Legal Right to Notice, But How About a Moral Right?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on January 10, 2022

By Harry S. Margolis


The case of In the Matter of the Colecchia Family Irrevocable Trust (Mass. App. Ct. 20-P-224, November 29, 2021) involves the claim of Michael Colecchia that he should be compensated for the years of work he performed maintaining his parents' home in Revere which he says he would not have done had he known the house had been placed in an irrevocable trust of which he was only a 10% beneficiary. The question ultimately is what notice was Michael entitled to as beneficiary of the trust.

(The case also involves a number of procedural and notice issues which will be useful for anyone involved in trust litigation, but of less interest to general readers.)

The Facts

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Topics: probate litigation

Why Not Medicaid (MassHealth) for All?

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 29, 2021

By Harry S. Margolis


When they were running for president, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren advocated providing universal health care coverage by expanding Medicare to cover all Americans. Such a single-payer system would be a great improvement over our current over-complicated system, but it would do little to expand long-term care coverage for our seniors and others with disabilities. That's because Medicare provides very limited long-term care services.

Medicaid (MassHealth in Massachusetts), on the other hand, covers nursing homes, a significant amount of home care, and some assisted living care. Making everyone automatically eligible for Medicaid would greatly expand the availability for such services, greatly ease the process of applying for benefits, and reduce the need for much elder law planning.

Let's Follow California's Lead

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Topics: MassHealth planning, Medicaid, home care, MassHealth applications

Build Back Better Act's Downpayment on Improved Care for Seniors

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 16, 2021

By Harry S. Margolis


If you're a Baby Boomer or related to one, you need to be concerned about the state of elder care in the United States. Our disparate system already is inadequate to meet the needs of today's seniors. It's complicated and expensive and relies heavily on underpaid direct-care workers, many of whom have braved the pandemic, but many of whom are also leaving the elder care workforce for safer, better paid and less demanding work.

The oldest Baby Boomers are now 75 years old. In a decade, they'll begin turning 85, the age at which people become much more likely to need care. That gives us a decade to get it right. Fortunately, the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), if it passes the Senate, will be a huge first step in the right direction. It includes:

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Topics: baby boomers, nursing homes, home care

Locking in the $12 Million Gift Tax Exclusion

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on December 7, 2021

By Harry S. Margolis

Margolis-bloom-d'agostino-gift-tax-exclusion-tax-planningAs of January 1st, the federal estate tax threshold will increase from $11.7 million to $12.06 million. (We'll call it $12 million since when you get to estates this size, the extra $60,000 is something of a rounding error.) In all likelihood, this of little concern to you since fewer than 1.0% of households in the United States have assets totaling more than $10 million and married couples can double these thresholds. So even fewer American families have a net worth exceeding $24 million.

However, this threshold is set to sunset in 2026 to half of its then current level. So for those dying in 2026 or later, the threshold will be $6.03 million (again, we'll just say $6 million), adjusted for inflation between now and then. The reason for the sunset is that when the Trump-Ryan tax bill was enacted doubling the prior exemption, it could not get the 60 votes needed in the Senate to become permanent. Instead, it was passed as budget resolution that only needed a majority vote in the Senate, but under the Senate rules could only last for 10 years.

This sunset raises the question as to what happens if a taxpayer makes a taxable gift before 2026 when the threshold is $12 million or more, but dies after 2026 when the threshold has been cut in half. Fortunately, the IRS has answered this question.

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Topics: estate taxes

Homestead Declaration Stands Up Despite Substantial Time Spent Out of State

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 30, 2021

By Harry S. Margolis

Local color Wharf reflections at sunrise in New England

Homestead declarations primarily come into play in the event of of bankruptcy. In such cases, they will protect the first $500,000 of equity in the home from claims of creditors. In order to qualify for the exemption, however, the homeowners must establish that the property serves as their residence. That's what was in question in the bankruptcy case of In re: Andrea A. Angera, Jr. (Civil Action Nos. 1:21-CV-10547-RWZ and 1:21-CV-10560-RWZ) (Nov. 4, 2021). a First Circuit Court of Appeals decision on an appeal of the bankruptcy court decision.

In the bankruptcy proceeding, after a three-day trial, Judge Melvin S. Hoffman (from whose law firm I sublet space several decades ago) found that although Andrea Angera spent most of his time for several years in Connecticut and Maine, his property in Martha's Vineyard remained his primary residence.

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Topics: homestead protections, estate taxes, domicile

Why Trusts Work Better than Durable Powers of Attorney

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 23, 2021

By Harry S. Margolis


Everyone should have a durable power of attorney in place, at least as long as they have anyone to trust to step in for them to handle financial and legal matters if they become incapacitated. We all are at risk of incapacity, whether from illness or injury, whether temporary or permanent. Of course, this risk rises as we get older.

Without someone in place to handle legal and financial matters, bills can go unpaid, contracts can't be signed, homes can't be refinanced, leases can't be terminated, investments go unmonitored and unadjusted, and families often fight over who's in charge. The remedy of seeking court-appointed conservatorship is expensive, cumbersome, and time-consuming. It's best that you pick your own person or people for this role.

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Topics: durable power of attorney, revocable trust

The First Step on the Thinking Ahead Roadmap: Choose Your Financial Advocate

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 16, 2021

By Harry S. Margolis

Financial-assets-security-trusts-margolis-and-bloom-dagostinoA team of a gerontologist, a senior advocate attorney and an actuary have developed an extremely accessible tool to assist seniors in planning for their financial security. Unfortunately, as seniors age they often lose their financial acumen and can become the victims of financial fraud and abuse.

Gerontologist Marti DeLiema of the University of Minnesota School of Social Work, attorney Naomi Karp, formerly of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and actuary Steve Vernon recommend that every senior choose a financial advocate to manage their daily finances, deal with health insurance, manage investments, and pay bills related to the home when the time comes. The financial advocate may be a family member or a professional. Either way, on their website, the Thinking Ahead Roadmap, the three list the factors to consider in making your choice.

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Topics: baby boomers, financial planning, durable power of attorney

One Instance Not to Name Your Trust as Beneficiary of Your IRA

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 9, 2021

By Harry S. Margolis

Trusts-beneficiary-estate-planning-margolis-and-bloomThere are a lot of good reasons to name your trust as beneficiary or your retirement plan, whether a 401(k), 403(b), or IRA. Trusts provide for management of the IRA beneficiaries who are young, disabled, or for other reasons shouldn't be managing the asset themselves. People in a second marriage or relationship may want their spouse or partner to benefit from the funds, but not be able to deplete them entirely. And trusts provide creditor and protection.

However, the trust may not protect your retirement funds from your own creditors.

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Topics: Retirement Planning, creditor protection, IRA

Lack of Family Support Exacerbates Future of LTC

Posted by Harry S. Margolis on November 2, 2021

By Harry S. Margolis

We've reported on both the importance of family caregivers and the underfunding of paid caregivers, both because they're underpaid and because it means we don't have enough of them. Now comes a study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College that concludes that we don't have enough family to go around either.

Part of a series about the need for long-term care, the Center finds that about a fifth of seniors will need no assistance during their lives, 38% a moderate level of care, and about a quarter a high level of care for three or more years.  Of this assistance, historically 64% has been provided by informal caregivers, mostly family members, at no cost, and the remaining 36% is paid for, mostly by Medic aid (22%).

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Topics: long-term care planning, baby boomers

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