Thursday, November 5, 2009

Medicaid / Long-Term Care Planning

When people are faced with the possibility of nursing home care, they usually fear losing their home to Medicaid estate recovery. There are many tools and strategies that an elder law attorney can employ to preserve the home and other assets of people facing long-term skilled nursing care.

Such tools may include:
• Asset transfers
• Irrevocable Trusts
• Life Estates
• Annuities
• Spending down of assets, including:
o prepaying funeral expenses,
o paying off a mortgage,
o making repairs to a home,
o replacing an old automobile,
o updating home furnishings,
o paying for more care at home, or even
o buying a new home.

Do you need an attorney for long-term care planning? This depends on your situation, but in most cases, the prudent answer would be "yes." There are very particular regulations and penalties to be avoided, and complex financial considerations. There may be a particular rule that applies in your case or some recent changes in the law. In addition, by the time you're applying for Medicaid, you may have missed out on significant planning opportunities.

If you are going to consult with a qualified professional, the sooner the better. If you wait, it may be too late to take some steps available to preserve your assets.

**This is only for advertising purposes. It does not create an attorney client relationship. It only provides general information and is not legal advice. Every case is different; you should contact an attorney to discuss your specific situation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Where Should I Store My Will?

Once your will is properly signed and witnessed, you need to store it in a safe place. This location is largely a personal choice, but in every instance, be certain that your executor knows of your chosen storage location, and has access to that location. There are several options, each having some advantages and disadvantages. Consider the following choices, in no particular order of preference:

1. Your own personal fireproof home safe- Your executor will need ready access to the safe, by combination or key, or both.
2. Safe deposit box- Make sure your state law does not require banks to seal the box upon death, and consider who else has access to that box. Be certain your survivors know of this location.
3. Leave it with your lawyer- Some law firms have vaults for such storage of wills and trusts, but some attorneys will not store your will, as they may have concerns about the propriety of this practice; specifically, the concern that a deceased client’s family may feel pressured to use that firm’s services in order to probate the will.
4. The probate court- For a nominal fee, your local probate court may file your will for safekeeping, and produce it only for your named executor, with proof of your death. Consider that this might not be optimal if you happen to move away and perhaps end up retiring in another state.
5. A trust company- If you name a trust company as your estate representative then that company will often hold your will for safekeeping.
** Note that in all cases it is imperative that your survivors be made aware of the location of your will, and that they must have ready access to that location.

In addition to a will, you should also have a Health Care Proxy and a Power of Attorney. Your original Health Care Proxy can be given directly to your chosen nominee, so that there will be no delay if you should become incapacitated. You should keep a copy for your own records.
The safekeeping of a Power of Attorney is a matter best discussed with your lawyer, as there are some serious considerations with this particular instrument. By design, Powers of Attorney are very powerful instruments, and there is always the concern that such a document could be abused in the wrong hands.
I hope that you found this article helpful. Please feel free to call me with your questions or concerns.

**This is only for advertising purposes. It does not create an attorney client relationship. It only provides general information and is not legal advice. Every case is different; you should contact an attorney to discuss your specific situation.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Aging Info Expo

DATE: Saturday, October 3, 2009
TIME: 10 am – 2 pm
PLACE: Bessie Buker Elementary School
1 School Street
Wenham, MA 01984

Get information on many services, products, agencies and programs assisting elders in living as healthy and independent a lifestyle as possible. Speakers and vendors will provide information on Estate Planning, Money Management, Home Care, Nutrition, Nursing Home Advocacy, & Volunteer and Enrichment Opportunities.
Attorney Denise Kent will be available to chat informally with you and to offer some basic information on such issues as:

BASIC ESTATE PLANNING: Find out the various tools and strategies employed to create an effective estate plan, including wills, trusts, health care proxies, and powers of attorney, and discuss exactly what these instruments are designed to do.

LONG TERM CARE PLANNING: If you or a loved one may be facing the need for long term care, an estate planning attorney can implement a plan that will work to preserve the assets of the family and allow you greater control and dignity throughout a complex and often heart-wrenching process.

AVOIDING PROBATE: There are numerous strategies and tools available that can be employed to effectively plan your estate so as to avoid the costly and lengthy probate process altogether.

A complimentary lunch will be provided for those who pre-register. To pre-register, please call Trudy Reid, Wenham Council on Aging (978) 468-5529

Law Office of Denise M. Kent
254 Bay Rd.
Hamilton, MA 01982
TEL (978) 468-9000
FAX (978) 468-9008

Monday, August 10, 2009

Probating an Estate- what does it entail?

What does it mean to "probate an estate"? In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Probate and Family Court oversees the settlement of estates for deceased residents. Whether or not you die having left a will, your estate will be probated through this court system, provided you have left assets in your own name, and provided those assets exceed $15,000, excluding the value of your automobile.

An attorney experienced in probate practice will assist family members to:

- collect asset and debt information
- file timely tax returns (perhaps referring the preparation to appropriate tax professionals)
- file appropriate court documents
- obtain a license to sell real estate, if necessary or deemed prudent
- deal with creditors and insolvency
- obtain releases of the estate tax lien, where necessary
- prepare inventories of assets and file accounts with the court as necessary
- assist with proper distribution of the estate among beneficiaries

Probating an estate is often a lengthy process, by necessity, because the estate must usually remain "open" until at least a year has passed, to give creditors time to file liens for debts owed, and also to ensure that any state or federal tax obligations are satisfied.

An experienced probate attorney can make this lengthy process less stressful, particularly for family members who may already be carrying a heavy burden of grief.

* this information is accurate as to statutes and probate procedures in effect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as of August 10, 2009, the date of this publication, but is not legal advice, nor intended to be legal advice, and does not constitute an attorney-client relationship *

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Child Support Modifications

In Massachusetts, both parents are responsible for the support of their children, whether they are married, divorced, separated, or were never married to each other.

Child support represents a significant cash flow in or out of a household, and the economy has undoubtedly affected many families. Recently, I have assisted clients obtain changes (modifications) to their existing child support orders.

You or someone you know may be able to benefit from the new Massachusetts child support guidelines, which were effective on January 1, 2009. Under the new guidelines, existing child support orders cannot be modified for three years unless there is a material change in circumstances (for example, a significant change in financial circumstances) or a change in health insurance.

* However, the court has discretion to deviate from the new guidelines in other limited circumstances, for example, where a child has special needs or where a parent has extraordinary medical expenses.

Whether you are the payer or the recipient of child support, you might want to consult with me regarding the possibility of a change in your existing order of support, particularly if that order is more than three years old.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Many people fear that they may end up in a nursing home, which means a great loss of personal autonomy and an enormous financial price. Monthly costs for skilled nursing care runs into thousands of dollars each month in my state of Massachusetts.

Most people end up paying for nursing home care out of their own pockets until they have exhausted their assets; this is where they become eligible for Medicaid assistance.

There are many tools and strategies that a planner can employ in order to ethically preserve assets and fund long term care needs, such as:
annuities, long-term care insurance, reverse mortgages, and the use of certain trusts.

If you or a loved one may be facing the need for long term care, it is best to seek guidance from an estate planning attorney and implement a plan that will work to preserve the assets of the family and allow you greater control and dignity throughout a complex and often heart-wrenching process.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why YOU need a will:

•Regardless of whether you want to avoid probate, you should have a will.
•A will directs who receives your estate when you die, and it appoints a personal representative, the executor, to make certain your wishes are carried out. If you have minor children, a will enables you to appoint a guardian for their care.

•In conjunction with a Will, Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney, (and a Living Will/Advance Directive and HIPAA just to be extra cautious), you can create a solid estate plan that will serve to avoid a full probate proceeding and provide for the event of your disability as well.

•Probate is the judicial process by which a will (or, in the case of intestacy, the estate of the decedent) is reviewed by the court, debts of the estate are paid, and final distributions are made to the heirs.

•The probate process is public; anyone can go into the probate court and view your will and all of the related probate filings, which is a reason why many people use pour-over wills in conjunction with living trusts, in order to avoid probate and keep their wishes private.

•Your estate, whether you leave a will or not, consists of all of the assets that were in YOUR NAME ALONE when you died; therefor, if you think that you can avoid probate of your estate by simply refraining from writing a will, you couldn't be more wrong!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The next in my Seminar Series

TIME: 10:30 AM
254 BAY RD

You've Been Widowed... Now What?

What should one do after facing the initial shock of being widowed? There are many legal and financial considerations that need to be addressed. We will discuss how to navigate the confusing maze of probate, taxes, government benefits and more.

Learn what to do in order to best secure your financial future and to ensure that your family is protected from the consequences of failing to plan for your own estate. This Seminar is free and is intended to help answer common questions and issues faced by the newly widowed. If you or someone you know could benefit from this informal discussion, please join us.

Space is limited, RSVP: (978) 468-9000

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My spouse died, what do I do now?

You’ve been widowed... now what?
This post discusses common issues and challenges faced by newly widowed persons, and answers a question that was recently asked of me at a Seminar I had presented, “How to Avoid Probate”.

There are many legal and financial considerations that need to be addressed by a recent widow(er). After the initial shock and grief have been absorbed, a person can be left feeling confused and unsure of what to do in order to best secure their financial future and to ensure that their family is protected from the consequences of failing to plan for their own estate.

So, what to do after your spouse dies?

I would advise that you consult a qualified estate planning attorney and a financial planner. Pull together your financial information; get acquainted with your current asset, income, and debt situation. This is particularly important if you were not the primary person to handle finances in the relationship. You will now be responsible for your own financial maintenance, and it is important that you are able to understand the nature and quality of your investments, and determine the best strategy for ensuring that you will be able to live comfortably within those means. Perhaps you need to downsize your home, or update your life insurance policy? A financial planner can assist you with these issues.

You should also consult an experienced probate & estate attorney to probate your spouse’s will, if he or she left one. You may also need to re-title certain assets, if they are in your former spouse’s name, collect life insurance policies on your own behalf, and consider whom you have named as beneficiary on your own life insurance policies or retirement plans. If your spouse is still your named beneficiary, then now is the time to change that designation. You may also be entitled to certain government benefits such as Survivor’s Benefits from the Social Security Administration, which has information here:
or certain benefits that are payable to surviving spouses of Veterans. Those benefits can include such assistance as bereavement counseling, burial assistance, or death pensions. Specific information on Veteran’s Benefits can be found here:

You will also need to consider your own estate planning needs. Have you written a will? What would happen if you were to die? Have you taken steps to ensure that your final wishes are carried out, and that the people whom you want to take care of will in fact be protected?
If you fail to take steps ahead of time, then the assets that are in your name alone when you die will pass through the probate court, ensuring a costly, public, and lengthy administration. Because you now own all of your marital property, your estate may be quite large. If your estate is sufficiently large enough to reach the estate tax threshold ($1 million in Massachusetts, $3.5 million Federal, for deaths occurring in 2009) then you absolutely should consult an estate planning attorney, who can help you to minimize the tax bite.

An estate planning attorney will assess the best plan for you, reviewing such factors as your health, family particulars, assets, income, expenses & debts, and create an estate plan that best fits your specific needs and wishes.
Note that if you have children or grandchildren with special needs, or family members who may be subject to bankruptcy proceedings or a child who might be facing divorce, then you need to consider how best to plan for them. If you don’t plan ahead, it is likely that the people you want to protect won’t be so protected, and the people that you don’t want to reap the benefits of inheritance (creditors or ex-spouses) might enjoy a nice bite of your children’s inheritance. An attorney can help you wade through these issues and determine the plan that is right for YOU, whether that is a simple estate plan or a more sophisticated plan that includes a trust.
While all of these considerations may seem overwhelming, it is important that you get your affairs in order, and work with experienced professionals who will assist you. May you find peace and comfort in your memories, and joy in the journey still ahead.

*** The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. You are invited to contact the office to arrange an appointment. Contacting Attorney Kent does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to the office until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Guardianship Changes (& how to avoid this proceeding!)

What is a Guardianship action?

A guardianship is a legal right given to a person to be responsible for the food, health care, housing, and other necessities of a person deemed fully or partially incapable of providing these necessities for himself or herself. Sometimes the Guardianship encompasses both the right to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person and also to manage their financial affairs. This would be called Guardianship of the person and estate in Massachusetts.

Some Guardianships allow for extraordinary powers, such as the power to administer drugs, assent to medical procedures, or to commit a person involuntarily.

Guardians are held to the highest fiduciary standard, which means, in legal terms, that they must always act in the best interest of the ward. However, the probate court has lacked the mechanisms to control and prevent abuses of the Guardianship system until recently. This lack of control and lack of monitoring of Guardianships has led to some well-publicized and serious abuses of the system, wherein persons were stripped of their civil liberties and right to self-determination, or wherein their estates were looted by those Guardians to whom their money was entrusted.

The Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code was signed into law on January 15th, 2009, and the new Guardianship provisions become effective July 1, 2009.

The new changes are profound and will impact positively persons currently under Guardianship or possibly subject to future proceedings. Some of the more notable changes are;

* Limited Guardianships will be encouraged, so as to allow the incapacitated person as much personal freedom and self-determination as possible

* Guardianship control of the estate (a person's financial affairs) will be a separate and distinct proceeding

* Guardians seeking to admit an incapacitated person to a nursing home will now be required to obtain written findings by the court that such admission is in person's best interest

* Guardians will now be required to file annual reports on the capacity of person under Guardianship, whereas they previously only had to account for their management of money if they were Guardians of the estate.

* The probate court will now now mandate monitoring throughout the period of Guardianship

The net effect of these changes is a sweeping change that positively protects the rights and interest of individuals, and will very likely cut down the abuses that have existed in the previous system.

In sum, the MUPC offers many long-awaited positive changes to a flawed system. However, the more important point I need to make in summary is that most Guardianships can be avoided with pre-planning by means of a Durable Power of Attorney.

A Durable Power of Attorney is a seriously powerful tool, and yet it is often overlooked or misunderstood by people.

•A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint an individual to act as your agent (called an attorney-in-fact) should you ever become incapacitated, even if temporarily. You decide what powers your agent will have. For example: power to pay your bills, buy/sell property, make investments, run your business, etc.

•Benefits: allows you to avoid becoming the subject of a public, costly, and often embarrassing Guardianship proceeding, and allows your agent to act without delay.

•Drawbacks: The document is effective on signing; If you are uncomfortable with giving such power over to your agent immediately, you can give it in escrow to your attorney, to hold until such time as your physician deems you incapacitated. Obviously, give your physician a copy of the document.

I applaud the legislature for improving Guardianship law and practice. However, pre-planning so as to avoid such proceedings by having a Durable Power of Attorney in place in the event of your incapacity can avoid the cost, delay, and red-tape involved in a Guardianship proceeding.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love is free... but divorce will cost you $20K

Happy Valentine's Day (almost)!

I am reflecting on the fact that, in this past week, I have had 3 consults for divorce & divorce-related matters. I now have a couple of new clients, in an area from which I did not expect to see much work.

According to my latest newsletter from the Massachusetts Bar Association, divorce business is booming for practitioners, and yet miscellaneous articles in the mainstream media have been saying that "people cannot afford to get divorced" in this economy, and that Bankruptcy attorneys are the ones making a killing.

I have heard that financial difficulties or differences in handling finances are often the root of divorce. All I can say is, from my personal experience, people seem even likelier to split now, under the tremendous stress that this economy is causing. Even more likely, people will seek modifications of their existing alimony or child support payments, in order to survive the downturn.

This has been my first-hand experience, and I expect that my family law practice will probably continue to expand.

Somehow I feel a little guilty about being the grim reaper of love during this particular holiday!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How to Avoid Probate

I have had several people mention that they could not attend my evening seminar last month, so I am repeating the seminar, this time scheduled for a Saturday morning, at my office (pictured here)

TOPIC: How to Avoid Probate
DATE: Saturday, 2/28/09 at 10:30am
PLACE: Law Office of Denise M. Kent, 254 Bay Rd (Rte 1A)
Hamilton, MA 01982

This seminar will address many common questions regarding the probate process, and the various tools and strategies employed to create an effective estate plan. We will also cover the basics of estate planning, including wills, trusts, health care proxies, and powers of attorney, and discuss exactly what these instruments are designed to do.
There will be examples and illustrations in order to help you understand what you need to consider in planning your own estate.

Light refreshments will be provided.

(978) 468-9000

Presentation by
Denise M. Kent, Esq.
254 Bay Road
Hamilton, MA 01982

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lawyering is fun when....

Over the years, I have had some humorous experiences in the law. Here are a few that still make me chuckle:

Probating a will: the very first article of the will directed the executor to burn the decedent's bedroom furniture! But why? Were her memories in that room so good or so BAD?! I wish I could have been the lawyer who drafted that will, because I would definitely have asked why. I do not know if the executor actually carried out this directive, but by law he should have!

Probating another will: decedent directs his executor to clean out his extensive video collection before letting family into the house. 'nuff said.

Trust administration: Most families fight over money, but in this 6 million dollar trust estate, we had the two beneficiaries fighting over the family photo collection. Family photos. We had to collect them and hold them in safekeeping and negotiate how they would be duplicated and divided. The two beneficiaries ultimately ended up suing each other.

Criminal Defense case, assault & battery charge- the defendant is a woman, accused of attacking her boyfriend with a tire chain. Where did she get the tire chain, was it just lying around the kitchen, or what? And aren't those things REALLY heavy, how did she swing it??

Friday, January 30, 2009

My First Seminar

I presented my first free, educational seminar this week. The topic was " How to Avoid Probate", and the attendance was a pleasant surprise to me. While the topic concerns death and touches upon disability and taxes, there is definitely a need for the kind of information that I presented.

First, what is your probate estate? In Massachusetts, your probate estate consists of assets that you own solely in your name when you die. Whether or not you leave a will, if you died owning assets in your name alone, the probate court is the venue required for legally changing title to those assets, getting them out of the name of the deceased person, and into the names of his or her heirs or beneficiaries.

If you don't write a will, then the probate court is the great decider; the court decides for you, according to the laws of intestacy and distribution, who gets your stuff, so if you have not properly planned for the disposal of your assets, the probate court will do it for you.

If you left a will, the probate court will oversee the payment of your debts and the distribution of your assets according to your wishes. There are many ways to avoid the delay, cost, and time involved in a full probate proceeding, and my seminar discussed the tools and strategies that can be used to achieve a non-probate estate, and eliminate the need for a full probate proceeding.

However, there were several people in the audience who assumed that avoiding probate meant that you also avoided estate taxes.

I'm very sorry to tell you that this is not the case.

Your TAXABLE estate consists of all assets in which you had an ownership interest when you died. That means probate assets, and other assets including traditionally non-probate assets such as life insurance that you owned; 401k's and profit-sharing plans; Inter Vivos Trust assets, if any, and also annuities. This list is not exhaustive; for example, the estate tax may also include certain transfers of property made within 3 years prior to death, among other things. Basically, if you had an ownership interest in an asset, it could be a countable asset included in your taxable estate.

I'll stop here and spare you the details on what you can deduct in order to reduce your taxable estate, because I don't want anyone to fall asleep. Suffice it to say that there is an enormous difference between a probate estate and a taxable estate, that most people don't realize it, and that I think people might be planning their estates under the erroneous belief that avoiding probate = avoiding estate taxes.

Let me make this very clear: estate planning can include tax planning strategies and probate avoidance strategies, but involves much more sophisticated planning than the average Joe or Jane should attempt on their own. So hire me.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What does a Paralegal do?

Whatever the boss tells them to, har har!

Disclaimer: This post is biased toward Paralegals.

As a former Paralegal, I can give you some insight on this. Generally speaking, Paralegals are persons specifically educated (in either Certificate, or more commonly, 2 or 4 year college degree programs) to perform many of the tasks that an attorney performs, under the supervision of an attorney. At all times, a supervising attorney is ultimately responsible for her Paralegal's work product.

To be frank, some lawyers and law firms simply don't know what to do with a Paralegal, how to best utilize their skills. In my years as a Paralegal, I worked at various firms, each of which had a different use for my abilities. Sometimes Paras end up in unchallenging positions in which their daily workload is largely administrative, consisting of simple editing, writing letters, filing, copying, etc., and this can lead to boredom, frustration and job burnout. One wonders why they hired a Para, when a Legal Secretary could do the job. (This is not a put-down of secretaries, it is an observation that Paralegals are trained to perform substantive legal work, and secretaries are not. If you need lots of transcription, copying, filing, reception of clients, etc., and you are not comfortable with delegating your legal work, then you should hire a secretary.)

At the other end of the spectrum, there are some lawyers who maximize their Paras, and assign to them significant legal research tasks and legal drafting projects. Their attitude is, "take a stab at it", and a Para who has good legal research and writing skills can save an attorney quite a bit of time and time is money! Sometimes Paras are required to log a certain number of billable hours, just as attorneys are, and there is constant pressure to meet that billing quota. In this way, they are sort of like attorneys, but without the larger paycheck!

I have also worked with Paras who never seemed to master the legal research and writing basics, perhaps because this was not stressed in their educational program. This is another issue, the fact that the quality of Paralegal Education programs and standards varies. I was fortunate to have graduated from a Paralegal program that stressed the importance of legal research and writing, which are the foundation for the practice of law. The tools that a good Para can bring to a law firm are valuable and should be utilized.

These same skills helped me to get through law school. It was easier for me to navigate the law library and the online legal research sources and to draft various pleadings, simply because I had solid experience doing so. In my opinion, legal research and writing skills are absolutely the foundation of good lawyering. Sometimes lawyers themselves lack a solid foundation in legal research, so a knowledgable Paralegal could be indespensible to them, if they recognize and utilize their Paralegal appropriately.

If my practice grows to point where I can hire staff, I would choose a well-educated Paralegal (even without experience) versus a Secretary without hesitation. There is real value, in terms of their knowledge of legal concepts, and their ability to do tasks that can potentially save me time. And once again, when you're a lawyer, time IS money.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Marketing, networking, and becoming visible

This past week, I focused a large chunk of time to marketing. All of my peers have said that
radio/tv/and even local print advertising had very little return on investment for them, and that they gained most of their business by word of mouth. People know you, they like you & trust you, so they refer others to you.

I am invisible, if I simply sit here in my office space and hope that people will somehow "find" me. Also, some of my own family members still think that I work for my previous law firm, and had no idea that I had hung out my own shingle.

I believe an Internet presence is very important, because today's consumer often researches businesses online, rather than flipping through the yellow pages. That is one reason why I started blogging; it will allow potential clients to read a bit about me personally, and find articles and news of note, and it will also (I hope) help other solos or aspiring solos. Sadly, I received news this past week that one of my lawyer friends had lost her job, and another was in danger of losing hers at any moment. I think perhaps that many lawyers are considering going solo, or starting a practice with a friend from law school because they simply have to.
And if law is your business, you have to sell yourself.

I joined a group for business owners, and I was surprised at how many of them are utterly without any online presence, and have never joined and social networking groups. Many of them had never heard of Linked-In, or Facebook, and had never taken advantage of such online advertisement venues such as MerchantCircle. Some people do not even have a website.
I think it's imperative to use these tools, in addition to blogging, so that potential clients can get an idea of you, the lawyer, as a person, and as a source of professional advice.

As an aside, the online services (& MerchantCircle basic version) are FREE, and provide a surefire way to enhance your web presence.

I did send basic snail-mail "I'm in Business" announcements to family, friends, and my business group, and I have will be presenting a free seminar in town in order to let people get to know me better. These seminars will be ongoing and presented on an at least monthly basis. I think it is absolutely KEY that people learn who I am and what I do, and get acquainted with my business style. I am not a salesperson; but I am knowledgeable, professional, and I deeply care about what I do, and whom I can assist with my legal skills. These are traits that people will only recognize by meeting me.

In order to reach my local fellow business owners, I went walking & knocking, literally! I just went from business to business, introducing myself, letting people know I am here, and what I do. In most cases, the business owner was in and warmly welcomed me; in a couple of cases, their employees were there and could not have cared less. In order to reach my family, friends, business associates, and networking groups, I maintain an accurate and up-to-date data base, so that I can email or snail-mail any new events.

I plan to start a Meetup group of my own, a business support group for the benefit of local business owners of Hamilton-Wenham, to help each other during this economic downturn. These efforts do take an awful lot of time & energy, and maybe a certain outgoing personality for the walking & knocking technique, but I think that most of the strategies and tools for marketing are affordable and easy enough for even LAWYERS to employ. (Lawyers are not historically known for being technologically forward-thinking. Ahem.)

Signing off for now, got to go set up a Meetup of my own!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Planning for Eldercare

"Planning for Eldercare" January 15, 2009
Return to Article Page Eldercare & Veterans Benefits Books

New Years Resolution – Plan for Long Term Care
“According to some sources, 60% of us will need long term care sometime during our lives. It is important for all of us to prepare for that day when we will need to help loved ones with elder care or we will need elder care for ourselves.”
“It is simply a fact of life to prepare financially for unexpected disasters by covering our homes, automobiles and health with insurance policies and to provide funding for our retirement. But no other life event can be as devastating to our lifestyle, finances and security as needing long term care. It drastically alters or completely eliminates the three principal retirement dreams of elderly Americans, which are:
1. Remaining independent in the home without intervention from others 2. Maintaining good health and receiving adequate health care 3. Having enough money for everyday needs and not outliving assets and income
Yet, it is our experience that the majority of the American public does not plan for the devastating crisis of needing elder care. This lack of planning also has an adverse effect on the older person's family, with sacrifices made in time, money, family lifestyles and even affecting the family's or caregiver's medical and emotional health.” National Care Planning Council “ The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning”
Because of changing demographics and potential changes in government funding, the current generation -- more-than-ever -- needs to plan for long term care.
If you have spent time helping a parent or loved one cope with a disability resulting from aging, you know the frustration of balancing what you feel they need to do and what they want to do. Communication is strained at times, because after all, you are the child and they the parent, yet physically and mentally the rolls have changed.
When you make directives, assignments and arrangements in advance of needing elder care, then everyone involved can follow the prearranged care plan.
As an example, Jefferson Simpson wrote in his care plan that if dementia or Alzheimer's inhibited his mental abilities to communicate or recognize his surroundings, he wished to be in a respectable facility and only asked that he be visited and brought chocolates. To his children this request seemed silly at the time, but when his mental capacities did diminish, the instructions were there. No one had to wonder if they should try to take care of Father Jefferson at home and how they would do it. Without quilt or question they placed him in a respectable facility that took care of his needs. All they had to do was make loving visits, and of course they brought chocolates.
In order for Jefferson's simple request to happen, he had made financial, legal and personal long term care plans years before.
What do you want your children or friends to do on your behalf?
When it comes time for them to help, what if you can't say what you want because of a physical or mental disability? This is where a written long term care plan comes into effect.

Do you have a financial plan or long term care insurance? Retirement savings can disappear quickly when used for care services.

Where is your paperwork; insurance policies, living will, medical directives, Armed Services discharge or disability papers? Is there someone designated to know the location?

What are the legal documents that are needed for power of attorney, estate planning and disbursement of assets? When do they have to be completed?

What types of care services and facilities are available and what are the costs?

What will government programs pay for and how do you qualify?

There is a lot you can do now to put together a plan for your own long term care. You may have limited resources in the future or health problems that will inhibit your ability to take care of things you could do now. For example.

James and Cindy want to be able to stay in their home as they age. In order to do this, when they were in their 40's they took out a long term care insurance policy that will pay for home care if it is needed. The policy will also pay for nursing home costs as a care option. With taking the policy at a younger age and in good health the monthly payments are low. Extra funds can now be put away for retirement without worries of having to deplete savings for care costs.

Or consider Sarah's following experience:

After taking care of her own parents for many years, Sarah realized the importance of making, in advance, a plan and preparations for herself. She saw all of her parents' assets dissipated in order for her father to qualify for Medicaid nursing home coverage. She didn't want the same thing to happen to her. She took the time to create her own plan on paper-- expressing her wishes for her own care. A trip to her attorney provided all the legal documents and estate planning she wanted to be in place to insure care for her and an inheritance for her children.

There is much to learn about long term care and there are a lot of new services and programs available to draw from.

The National Care Planning Council has gathered together an overall review of government and private long term care services both on the Council website, and in their book The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning.
The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning provides comprehensive information about long term care planning. The design also allows you to record personal information, family agreements and directions on 20 planning sheets at the back of the book. Using this book as a single-source repository for information and directions makes it much easier for you or your care coordinator to carry out your wishes when the need for care occurs.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Generic Lawyer

Law is a business all about people. People often use the services of lawyers when they have some sort of crises, such as a lawsuit, bankruptcy, divorce, guardianship issue, or a DUI arrest. They also hire us on happy occasions such as when purchasing real estate or assisting in an adoption proceeding.

I guess then it should come as no surprise that other attorneys tell me that conventional advertising does not generate the bulk of their business. It seems it really is all about who you know. With that in mind, I have sent announcements to all of my nearest and dearest, in my family, and business community, to let them know that I am in business.

A former boss once told me to tell people that I am simply A LAWYER, because to say that you specialize in any one area could cost you valuable business. I agree, but it is only human nature to prefer or have a talent for a certain niche. My niche is Estate Planning & Elder Law. While I am happy to assist in a real estate closing or a simple Consumer Protection dispute, I find helping families to be very personally rewarding. It is also a constantly changing area of law, and each case presents a different challenge, particularly if you are dealing with difficult personalities in the family dynamic. (hmmm, that's a whole post in itself!) I guess I would say I lean toward Probate & Family Law, both because of my work history in that area, and because of my own inclination, but it's certainly not ALL I do..

Anyway, this issue of "what kind of lawyer are you?"came up this morning at a networking meeting that I had joined through The meeting itself was very productive, as I did meet several people whose business I or my clients certainly would need: Realtors, Financial Planners, a Counselor/Life Coach, etc.

In general, people don't really understand how I could do Criminal Defense and still write their mother's will (and health care proxy & power of attorney, because to neglect them would be malpractice, in my opinion). People do like to pigeon-hole one another, and I need to resist doing that to myself. I like the idea of doing a little bit of everything, while sub-specializing in what I know best.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy New Year!

I think it fitting that my inaugural post coincides with the new year, and good riddance to 2008! This blawg (slang for law blog) will record my journey in the establishment of my solo law practice.
While I had always wanted to open my own practice some day, circumstances sort of dropped me into the road a bit sooner than I had planned for; but then, who could have counted on anything in 2008? And so I find myself renting a little office in my small hometown, and looking forward to the journey ahead.

I found it helpful to read other blawgs over the past couple of years, while I had planned my own practice, and those blawgs will be noted here. The information I amassed has been a great help to me. There are myriad decisions as to practice location, marketing, software, choice of rental situations, office equipment, etc., not to mention what type of law to specialize in. Although I have a strong base of experience in Estates & Trusts, which encompasses probate, guardianships, and Medicaid planning, I realize that as a new business I will need to diversify, in order to remain afloat.

I am sharing office spaces with several other attorneys, and I find I both need and enjoy the company, the mentoring of more experienced attorneys, and the general ambiance of a "law firm" feel, without actually having a boss. I have been pleasantly surprised by the offers of support, in both time and materials, from other solos. My challenge will be to grow and maintain a practice in which I hope to establish a rewarding and fulfilling practice and a positive work/life balance. It helps that I like people, and I love helping people.

My background in Estate Planning is a good foundation for a specialization in Elder Law (mainly Medicaid Planning). My most rewarding professional experiences stem from helping those who are least powerful, and assisting families in times of crises. To that end, I will be presenting seminars on related Estate Planning and Elder Law topics. I will also post here various articles and information that people might find helpful.

Here's to a better, brighter New Year!