Life Estate Deeds – An Antique Technique Providing Modern Convenience
October 16, 2014
When we pass away, our assets are divided into two groups – probate and non-probate. Non-probate assets are things like bank accounts and life insurance policies that you have named joint owners or TODs on – they transfer to the named beneficiaries upon your death without any court involvement. Probate assets are held only in your name. The court looks to your will, or the intestacy statute, if there isn’t a will, to determine who receives these assets. This can be a lengthy, and potentially costly, process.
One way to make your home a non-probate asset is to create a life estate. This concept was borrowed from old English property law. You, as the owner of the home, deed the home to yourself for life (making you the “life tenant”) and then to another person(s) known as the “remainderman” (most often your children). Upon your passing, the remaindermen immediately become the owners of the home (they just need to file a copy of your death certificate with the Registry of Deeds).
Creating a life estate has many benefits. First, upon your passing, your home transfers seamlessly to the remaindermen without any court involvement. Second, you are guaranteed the right to remain in your home for the rest of your lifetime – you cannot be compelled to sell or move out. Next, after your passing, the remaindermen receive a step-up basis for capital gains purposes, minimizing the capital gains tax due should they decide to sell the property after your death. Fourth, because the remaindermen have no ownership interest in the home until after your death, their creditors (in the event of a bankruptcy or divorce, for example) cannot access the equity in the home during your lifetime. Lastly, the entire value of the home can be protected from your nursing home costs so long as the life estate is created at least five years before you ask MassHealth for assistance in paying for nursing home care (more on this below).
Creating a life estate, however, has its potential pitfalls. First, the remaindermen must all sign off if you decide you want to mortgage, reverse mortgage or sell the property. The thought of giving up so much control can be frightening for many homeowners. (It’s worthwhile to note that your remaindermen should have their own powers of attorney in place, in the event you need their approval and they are out of the country, in the hospital, or otherwise incapacitated.)
Also, if you need to ask the state for assistance in paying for nursing home care in the five years following the creation of a life estate, you could be disqualified for a period of time. MassHealth uses a formula to calculate the “value” of your life estate based on your life expectancy and the value of the home. The disqualification can also be cured if the remaindermen agree to deed the property back to the life tenant outright, destroying the life estate. If it’s likely that you’ll be asking MassHealth to help pay for your nursing home care in the next five years, then you should meet with an elder law attorney to explore other options to protect the value of your home to the greatest extent possible.
A life estate deed can be a valuable addition to your estate plan. If you’re interested in learning more about life estates and whether this might be the right solution for you, call our office to schedule a planning session.
Home Care Goes High-Tech
October 9, 2014
CNN recently ran a fascinating article about the expanding use of technology in the field of home care for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia, allowing them to remain independently in their homes longer.
You’ve probably heard of “call for help” bracelet or necklace devices, but did you know that a wireless sensor attached to a key fob can text a caregiver if a parent or loved one leaves his or her home? Or that a bedroom motion sensor can monitor sleep interruptions and middle of the night bathroom trips? A company called SmartThings manufactures a variety of sensors, which compile data wirelessly and report back to you via a smartphone app. Stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot also have their own automated home-monitoring sensor systems.
More senior-specific systems include Lively, GrandCare, and BeClose. They offer senior-targeted products such as bathroom and pillbox sensors, and blood pressure and glucose monitoring devices. Reports from these devices can be easily shared with the elder’s doctor. In a nod to social media, caregivers and loved ones can even upload photos and messages using the Lively app, which are printed and sent to the elder via mail twice per month!
Of course, even the niftiest of devices can’t replace a caregiver. But these devices can supplement in-home care and enable seniors to remain safely in their homes longer, while giving their families some peace of mind.
(Disclaimer: We haven’t used or investigated any of these devices, we are just passing along the information. Before investing in any new device, you may want to do some research, such as reading online reviews or asking friends if they have used them.)
Shared Office Space Available to Lease in Hingham
October 6, 2014
Are you a South Shore professional in search of a nice, sunny, 14 x 12 corner office? Our law firm consists of two attorneys and an assistant – we would like to add another professional to our suite. We have a top-floor space that consists of three offices, a spacious conference room, and a waiting area.
Clients love the location, right off Route 3 at Exit 15 near the Derby Street Shoppes. The building is handicapped-accessible, with a ramp and an elevator. There is plenty of parking.
Rent is $945 per month, which includes heat, electricity, etc. You would just pay for your own phone line, and share the internet cost. The space is available November 1.
Doreen, my assistant, is available to greet your clients and make them feel comfortable. She can also provide limited hours of secretarial support, if needed.
This is a great space for a solo practitioner, but the office is large enough to have an assistant join you. You do not have to be another attorney – you could be an accountant, a graphic designer, a bookkeeper, a webmaster… any professional who needs a sunlit, spacious office in a conveniently located, modern building.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information.
Friendship Home’s First Annual Walk With Friends
June 5, 2014
Friendship Home in Norwell is hosting its First Annual Walk with Friends on Sunday, June 22, 2014. The 5K (3.1 mile) walk will take place at Wompatuck State Park in Hingham. This family-friendly event will raise funds and awareness for Friendship Home. Here are some more details if you’re interested in participating:
Registration is from 10:30 a.m. to noon, with the walk beginning at noon. Walkers will have until 2:00 p.m. to complete the course. You can register ahead of time online at friendshiphome.net or by calling (781) 659-8202 to request a registration form. You can sign up as an individual or form a team with friends and family members. Registration is $25.00 for individuals and just $50.00 for a family.
If you would like to lend a hand but not walk, volunteers are also welcome. For more information on volunteering, contact Linda Malone at 781-659-8202.
Walkers can also opt to fundraise and collect additional donations. All money raised will provide support for the Friendship Club program, which “offers individuals with developmental disabilities a unique opportunity to build and nurture friendships while contributing to our community, learning new skills and having fun!”
Friendship Home does wonderful work for people with developmental disabilities. If you’re around on the 22nd I encourage you to round up your friends and family to enjoy a nice summertime walk to support this great organization.
Shred Day This Saturday 9/21 @ South Shore Bank
September 17, 2013
Received this email:
Saturday, September 21, 2013
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
75 Washington Street, Pembroke
For those who feel like they are buried in personal documents that they don’t want to throw out for fear of identity theft, South Shore Bank has the answer. The Bank will host a “Shred Day” at their branch office at 75 Washington Street in Pembroke on Saturday, September 21st, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., during which people can bring their confidential documents to the Bank and watch as they are turned into confetti in a mobile shredding unit.
Shredding services at South Shore Bank’s “Shred Day” will be provided by Shred King Corp., which is AAA-certified by the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID). All shredded material will be delivered by Shred King to a recycling center.
The South Shore Bank “Shred Day” is free and open to the public.
For more information, call 781-337-3000.
Scammers Abound with Health Care Reform Starting Soon
September 3, 2013
Michelle Singletary has done it again. I love her columns. Read her latest column on how to watch out for scammers pretending to help you enroll under the Affordable Care Act.
A few hot tips:
- If you get an unsolicited call regarding health care insurance, hang up.
- Never give out personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account or Social Security numbers or your date of birth to unfamiliar callers.
Read the entire column here.
Testifying at the State House
August 5, 2013
Last week, I headed to the State House to once again testify on bills that could plug some holes in the MassHealth nursing home payment system and make things a bit easier for families caring for frail elders.
The shorthand for this bill is the “transfer of assets” bill. It comes down to this: As you probably know, should you need nursing home some day, and if you need MassHealth to pay for it, MassHealth understandably looks through five years of bank statements to see if you’ve given any large sums away in the last five years. After all, it would not be fair if we could just give our money away and then ask our fellow taxpayers to foot our nursing home bills.
But the problem lies in abiding by this principle too strictly. The MassHealth regulations (based on federal law) actually state that you cannot transfer assets within the last five years with the intent of qualifying for MassHealth. The MassHealth regulations indicate that applications should be approved where the assets “were transferred exclusively for a purpose other than to qualify for MassHealth.” The problem is, MassHealth is not following its own regulations.
Quite frequently, nursing home placement is the result of a sudden decline, or an unexpected illness. It is fairly common for a healthy, active elder to do what she has always done – birthday gifts to family, donations to her church, help out a child divorcing or at risk of foreclosure – and a few years later be faced with a sudden turn of events and need to move to the nursing home. These elders should not be punished for not only not knowing about the five-year “look-back” rule, but worse – for being healthy and loving their families.
What happens to you if you are one of these unlucky people? Let’s say you were in good health, your child’s home was in foreclosure, you paid off her debt, and then let’s say four years later, out of the blue, your health fails and you need nursing home care. Well, you might pay down most of your remaining assets to the nursing home, and once you run out of money, you apply for MassHealth assistance. If you run out of money before you get to the five-year mark from making that gift, things are going to be difficult.
Imagine this: You are in the nursing home, you have spent all your savings, and you have no choice but to ask for MassHealth to pay your nursing home bill. It is only at this point – when you have no more money – that they impose the disqualification period that resulted from the gift. Let’s say you gave your kid $33,000 – that amounts to four months of disqualification. So you are in the nursing home, you have no money, and MassHealth won’t start paying for another four months. The nursing home isn’t paid to care for you, so now what? Is it fair that the nursing home should provide 24/7 room, board, and medical attention without being paid? They can’t operate that way. They try to evict you for nonpayment. And then things get ugly. You might bounce from hospital to hospital, or you might end up in your last choice of nursing homes. Not pretty.
The “transfer of assets bill” would make it clear to MassHealth caseworkers (the folks that review and then approve or deny your nursing home application) that transfers in the last five years shall not result in denials if the transfers were made for certain various reasons. These are reasons that you might categorize under “living my life” or “taking care of my family,” such as a pattern of small gifts (monthly donations to church or annual birthday checks); helping a relative in financial crisis, foreclosure, or with medical care; or, whatever the reason for the transfer, at the time of the transfer, there was no reason to think you would need MassHealth in the next five years.
The “transfer of assets” bill is actually two identical bills – one filed in the House by Representative John Fernandes (H1021) and one filed in the Senate by Senator Katherine Clark (S503). Please call your state representative and senator and ask them to support these bills. To find your rep and senator and their contact information, click here. And thank you.
Art is for Everyone at the YMCA
August 1, 2013
Thursday evening, August 15th from 4-8 pm. BBQ, interactive art stations, and then a live auction for art created that very evening right before your eyes.
The schedule of events is as follows:
4-6pm – Family fun festival activities; make a bracelet, tye dye bandanas, paint a bird house, get your face painted or grab a hot dog dinner (small cost for each).
There will be live performances at 4:45pm (Friendship Home) and 5:45pm (YMCA – Charlie Brown scene).
Live Professional artists on site painting – their completed works will be auctioned off that evening.
For the adults – Paintfest sessions – create a painting on the spot in 20 minutes – materials and instruction provided – no talent needed. $10 to participate and you get to take home your painting. We will have two sessions – 4:15pm and 5:15pm for ten people each session.
Shop for artwork created by participants from each organization – open from 5pm to 8pm.
6-8pm is a cocktail reception for adults; a Celebrity Paintfest; and a Live auction.
For more info, click here.
See you there!
Rental Wheelchair Vans Available from VERC
June 18, 2013
First I’ve ever heard of this concept. What a great idea for people who’ve given up their cars but still occasionally want to get out with family or friends. Love it! Check out VERC’s website for more info.
The Elderly & Special Needs Patients and the Fiscal Cliff
January 9, 2013
In all the fiscal cliff nonsense of the last few weeks, here are a few provisions that affect the elderly and the disabled:
1. Remember how doctors were being threatened with a 27% pay cut for their Medicare patients? That threat went away. For a year. Set your clocks now for December 2013 when we get to watch this debate all over again.
2. Extension of the Medicaid payment of the Medicare Part B deductible for low-income folks. That’s the $99.90 that is deducted from your Social Security check every month. For low-income folks, Medicaid picks up payment for Medicare Part B. That was threatened to disappear. It’s been saved… until December 2013, anyway.
3. CLASS has officially been repealed. This was Ted Kennedy’s project, it was the first national response to our long-term care funding crisis. Lots of folks didn’t like it right from the beginning. Now it’s gone, and so far we still don’t have a national agreement on where we stand as a society on providing for long-term care.
4. Creation of the Commission on Long-Term Care. This outfit is supposed to develop recommendations for a national approach to establishing, implementing,and financing a long-term care system that establishes quality long-term care and supports. American history is littered with study groups whose recommendations and good work are ignored by Congress (sometimes for the good). We will wait to see who is appointed to this commission before we can predict whether their recommendations will be thoughtful and balanced or stilted in one direction. If the Commission is to be staffed in the thoughtful and balanced direction, then I expect that NAELA will advocate to have one of our knowledgeable thought leaders involved.