Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What kinds of matters do we handle in a practice focused on Estate Planning, Probate and Elder Law?

1. Estate planning, including more advanced tax planning issues for estates subject to Federal or State estate taxation;

2. Asset protection planning, including implementation of asset-protection trusts, in conjunction with structuring of business entities, such as LLC’s.

3. Long-term care planning, including advice regarding long-term care insurance and the availability of Medicaid;

4. Guardianship of the person and conservatorship of the estate;

5. Probate (or other procedures required on a person’s death), including will contests, and trust administrations;

6. Planning and implementation of “living wills” and other advance directives and health care rights;

7. Planning for the care of physically or mentally disabled children and adults, including special needs trusts;

8. Counseling on availability of Veteran’s Benefits, and prosecuting such claims as necessary;

9. Dissolution of marriage where one spouse is physically or mentally disabled;

10. Elder abuse and exploitation.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Planning for "Never"

I am Suzanne Benfield, an attorney here at the Denise Kent Law Group and I especially enjoy helping out families with young children (like myself). Most people say to me, “Oh, I have a will. I’m all set.” Mmmmmm, no. Not quite. Not even close.

Unfortunately, we have to think of the worst case scenario. I have an acquaintance whose parents were killed simultaneously in an auto accident in upstate New York several years ago (really). The only good thing about it was that their children were grown adults, married and self-sufficient at the time of their death.

But what if the kids were young and at home with a babysitter while you and your spouse were driving to a local restaurant on a “date night” and the same turn of events occurred? Who would take care of and raise your kids in your absence? Not only should you consider who you would want to take care of your kids, but who would physically be able to take care of your kids? Further, how would that person/persons provide for your kids for day-to-day financial needs, as well as health insurance and college?

It’s really hard to imagine this scenario for yourself. Trust me, I know. Even though I am a lawyer, I didn’t have an estate plan in place for some time after my kids were born. More than imagining me not being alive, it was harder to imagine my young and vulnerable kids without me or my spouse. The good thing about this is that statistically, it is highly unlikely that both you and your spouse will be taken out simultaneously. But, we should plan for the worst case, so that no one else does it for you.
So, what to do? If you are like me, you don’t have a whole lot of assets…a house with a mortgage, a couple of cars, a retirement account, some cash accounts and maybe some other small investments. Will that, all together, support your kids in the event you die or can’t work due to disability? Probably not. So, I have life insurance whose proceeds will dump into a trust for the benefit of my spouse and kids. (Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the jist of it.)

What happens if you don’t do estate planning? Should something happen to you and/or your spouse, a judge (who doesn’t know you or your family) will decide the fate of your children. And, the proceedings will be public. I can’t urge you enough to take the time to think about doing estate planning sooner rather than later so that in the unlikely event something does happen, things go smoothly and seamlessly for your children at an already very difficult emotional time.

We provide solutions to these problems. Please feel free to contact us at Denise Kent Law Group, where we enjoy helping people, one family at a time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pet Trusts

Who will be your pet's guardian when you are not there? Providing loving care to your pet is a lifelong commitment. In light of recent legislation that allows use of pet trusts in Massachusetts, I have been drafting estate plans in which clients have provided for their pets.

The History of Estate Planning and Pets
• The concept is based on English common law, and was not introduced into the American legal system until the last century. In 1923, the Kentucky Supreme Court considered this issue and held that a bequest to a trust for a pet was valid, under a law that allowed gifts for humane purposes.
• Most states have now adopted pet trust statutes.
• In Massachusetts, M.G.L c.430 is An Act Relative to Trusts for the Care of Animals. It was enacted January 7, 2011, and covers trusts set up for the care of your pets after your death.

Taxes and Pet Planning
• The IRS does not yet recognize a trust whose beneficiary is an animal, but still requires that such entities are taxed under Section 641, as a trust!
• Presently, we cannot enjoy any income tax or estate tax deduction for gifts to a charitable trust when the non-charitable trust distributions are solely for the benefit of an animal.

Plan now: All too often, animal shelters and animal rescue organizations find that the incapacity or death of an owner results in abandonment, surrender or the inability to care for a pet. Here at Denise Kent Law Group, we respect your wishes and recognize the importance of pets as family members.

We look forward to helping you take care of your dependents.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Denise Kent Law Group joins ElderCounsel & WealthCounsel


Denise Kent of the Denise Kent Law Group is pleased to announce her affiliation with WealthCounsel LLC – a nationwide collaboration of trusts and estate attorneys and other legal, tax and business professionals, and also with
ElderCounsel LLC, a collaboration of Elder Law attorneys. As a member, Kent contributes to and draws on
the knowledge and expertise of thousands of her colleagues.

Attorney Kent said that she joined WealthCounsel in order to offer clients the most up-to-date estate planning strategies, and joined ElderCounsel in order to provide the most sophisticated solutions to issues facing the elderly and disabled. Using their resources, clients are assisted with cutting-edge planning techniques executed in documents that are comprehensive, flexible and easy-to-read.

WealthCounsel and ElderCounsel members contribute to the ongoing development of practice systems through web-based discussion groups, study groups and continuing education courses. This year's curriculum offering include such topics as, "Power of the Lifetime QTIP", "Using LLC
to Protect Family Assets", "Trustee Selection for Irrevocable Trusts" and “Medicaid Immersion”.

WealthCounsel systems were recently praised during the 45th annual Philip E. Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning hosted by the University of Miami School of Law.

Kent is pleased to bring such quality to her practice, and
looks forward to utilizing colleagues and resources to deliver technically up-to-date peer-reviewed documents, advice and counsel for clients.

Denise Kent founded the Denise Kent Law Group in 2008, and practices together with her associate, attorney Suzanne Benfield. Their practice areas include Estate Planning, Probate & Estate Administration, and Elder Law, as well as certain Family Law services, such as Divorce Mediation. Key services include Medicaid Planning
and Special Needs Trusts.

Kent is a graduate of Gordon College and Mass School of Law and is licensed to practice in Massachusetts and the U.S. District Courts of Massachusetts. In additon, she earned a Certificate in Trust and Estate Planning, from The Foundation for Continuing Legal Education, Inc., Wenham, MA

To learn more about the firm, visit www.denisekentlaw.com

SOURCE Denise Kent Law Group

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Elder Law and How I Help

I practice Elder Law, which, in general, means that I assist elderly and/or disabled people find the help and the resources to live as independently as possible, with respect and dignity. Long-term care can be devastating to a person’s lifestyle, finances and security. 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
Have you considered the following:
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 estate 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.

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?

When you make directives, assignments and arrangements in advance of needing elder care, then everyone involved can follow the prearranged care plan. In a best-case scenario, an individual has made financial, legal and personal long term care plans years before. Without such planning, families often find themselves in crisis where time, money and lifestyle are sacrificed, and caregivers suffer both emotionally and medically themselves.
There are a lot of new services and programs available to draw from, and it’s my pleasure to work with families and assist them in navigating the maze of pressing health care and financial needs.
Denise Kent
“Helping people, one family at a time.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The 2011 Budget Control Act and How it Affects My Clients

What follows is a VERY brief summary of the key issues that concern me and my clients, and ultimately, all of us.

The 2011 Budget Control Act established an agreed-upon deficit-reduction amount, but largely leaves specifics out. It is therefore difficult to know for certain what changes we will be looking at, but we do know that the Act puts major tax changes under consideration, and possibly social programs as well.

Personal income tax deductions/credits, and business deductions are back on the table for review by the special joint committee. Also, certain health programs (long-term care insurance & disability) that were slated to begin in 2012 may be abolished, if the committee follows the recommendations proposed by the "gang of six." Results: once again, such safety-nets as LTC and disability insurance will remain largely unaffordable for most Americans.

Additionally, the existing federal estate tax exemption, together with associated tax cuts that were enacted in December, 2010, are still slated to sunset on December 31, 2012, returning to exemption levels of $1 million, and a tax rate of 55%. Pair that with the proposed elimination of state tax credits, and you get a potentially horrific estate tax burden. Results: Many unsuspecting Massachusetts residents could be subject to both the Massachusetts (16-20%) AND Federal Estate Tax (55%) burdens, which could confiscate over 70% of gross estate, if they have not done proper estate planning!

I'll be watching carefully, because any changes in tax laws or health care reform programs need to be taken into consideration for estate planning, long-term care planning, and business entity formation/asset protection planning.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples & Unmarried Life Partners

Same-sex couples and unmarried partners are confronted with many legal uncertainties due to the varying degrees of protection afforded them by the federal and state governments. Changes in state and federal law create a patchwork of protection for these couples.

Comprehensive planning is essential to protect inheritance rights, property distribution, and medical and final arrangement decisions. Tax planning and retitling are necessary to avoid unintended consequences.

Bodies of Law that affect unmarried but committed individuals:
 Probate Laws
 Domestic Relations Laws
 Disability Laws
 Tax Laws
What Benefits does marriage (as recognized by the federal government) confer?
 Property Rights
 Tenancy by the Entireties
 Homestead
 Corporate Benefits
 Pensions and Social Security
 Divorce
 Inheritance Rights
 Spousal Elective Share
 Probate Preferences
 Taxes

Other Rights Include Legal Standing in Personal Injury Cases
 Loss of Consortium
 Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress/Wrongful Death
 Other Rights
 Spousal Privileges (Testimony & Communication)
 Family Medical Leave Act
 Health Care Rules/Guardianship
 Premarital Agreements
 Adoption

What tools do I employ, as an Estate Planning Attorney?
 Life Alliance Agreements - non-marital agreement between unmarried persons
 Estate Planning Strategies
 Comprehensive Will package
 Comprehensive Trust package
Until the laws change, it’s important to plan accordingly so that your loved ones will be protected, and your wishes carried out.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Planning and Paying for Long-term care

Do you know someone who has spent time in a nursing home? It is one of those situations where we feel “It could never happen to me.” But studies show that approximately two (2) out of every five (5) people reaching age 65 will need some type of long-term care. Are you one of the many people who would prefer to stay at home no matter what the cost? Without proper planning, the lack of available services and the staggering price-tag may leave you with few alternatives.

In Massachusetts, the annual cost of nursing home care ranges from approximately $90,000.00 to over $100,000.00, and it is climbing each year! That is approximately $300.00, per day. If you choose to stay at home, where most of us would prefer to be, and hire home health aides, the cost of your care could be even more. Home health care costs vary widely, but agencies charge anywhere from $18 to $30 per hour for home health aides. In some cases, people pay over $200,000 per year for 24 hour-a-day home care. What many people fail to realize is that their health insurance and Medicare will not cover the cost of long-term care, whether at home, in assisted living or in a nursing facility. Paying for long-term care is a personal responsibility which has become a primary concern for all age groups across our state and the nation.

Within the past year, reform of Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid has risen to the top of the government’s agenda. It is thus imperative that seniors, those approaching retirement age, and the families of those needing long-term care take advantage of the planning opportunities that exist today. Everyone's situation is unique, and it is impossible to discuss all of the planning opportunities in this seminar. As with any planning, a good way to begin is to seek competent advice from a qualified professional. At Denise Kent Law Group, we are dedicated to helping you find solutions to your long-term care concerns.

For more information, join us at our next Long-Term Care /Asset Protection Seminar:

Wednesday, September 14th, at 1PM, at the Ipswich Council on Aging, 25 Green Street in Ipswich, MA.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Medicaid Planning / Long-Term Care Planning Seminar

I’m pleased to announce the next presentation in our seminar series, Long-Term Care Planning. This topic is of special concern to elderly and disabled persons, who may be facing such issues right now, or who fear impoverishment if they become unable to live independently.
This seminar will focus on the topic of long-term care planning and asset protection. We will discuss the costs related to care at home, in assisted living, and in skilled nursing facilities. We will discuss options for maximizing resources in order to pay for such care as needed, and the role that Medicaid plays when a person’s resources fall short.

What can you do to protect your assets? Come join us to find out!
There is ample free parking on-site, and refreshments will be served.

Warm regards,
Denise M. Kent

Date: Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Time: 10:00 AM
Salem Council on Aging
5 Broad Street
Salem, MA 01970

Register by phone at (978) 468-9000 or online, at the following link:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring & Summer 2011 Seminar Series

Topic: Estate Planning Bootcamp: Muscle up on your knowledge on estate planning!

When: Thursday, March 24th, 2011 at 12:45PM

Where: Ipswich Council on Aging, 25 Green Street, Ipswich MA


Topic: Medicaid Planning: How to Protect Your Assets

When: Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 at 10:00AM

Where: Salem Council on Aging, 5 Broad Street, Salem MA