Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Your golden ticket to safety and security

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     As you explore my blog, you may still be wondering what it is that I do. Yes, I am an attorney specializing in the areas of elder law, tax law, Medicaid planning, and estate planning; however, what does that REALLY mean?

Some examples…

  • I protect your family from excess taxes, attorney fees, court fees time and delays that can occure upon your passing.
  • I help make sure that what you’ve worked a life time building goes towards your family in a tax efficient maner without excess time and court fees.
  •  I protect your children's inheritance from inlaws and make sure your legacy continues down your bloodline.
  •  I help you leave a legacy to your loved ones with asset protection from lawsuit creditors.
  • I make sure that after you are gone that your spouse gets the assets, but if your spouse is remarried the assets go to your children.
     As an attorney, I find personalized legal services to be very important. I can assure that I have a unique and comprehensive system that takes a customized approach to achieving the right results. Every way of reaching the desired result is unique to the client. Do not be fooled by the idea that legal documents alone can accomplish your goals. In fact, many people have tax, probate or other legal risks that they aren't even aware of. Our unique approach to your legal needs starts with counseling. We learn about you, your family, your estate and your goals. Next we inform you of the risks associated with your estate and the solutions to provide the results your are seeking. We don't try to fit you into our plan. We customize a plan that fits you and your family. Are legal services unaffordable? If anything, the money invested into establishing a sound estate plan will certainly benefit your family in many ways. For most clients the investment in a sound estate plan is just a small fraction of what their family will really pay without one.

    Using the services of an attorney is important. It is equally important to use an attorney that has the skills in the area of law that seeking help with. In many ways, attorneys are like doctors. There are attorneys that have general practices and there are those who focus their knowledge and skills in one specific area. Would you want a real estate attorney handling a criminal matter for you? Of course not. The same is true with elderlaw and estate planning. You worked a lifetime building an estate and you only have one chance to get it right when you become ill or pass. Don't trust a generalist to perform a very complext and important task. My area of practice is limited to estate planning and elderlaw. On top of all of that, I come with an added bonus; I am also a CPA. Today, not many elder law attorneys have the added benefit of also being a CPA. Why should that matter to you? When you apply for Medicaid, a three year audit is done. Since I am a CPA, my team is very good at preparing packages that leave a trail for the medicaid audit. This helps your claim for benefits get processed without confusion. I understand exactly what they are looking for and how to present it to them. What about taxes? The way you leave your estate to your loved ones can have tremendous tax results. In planning your estate you must consider, income tax, capital gain tax, estate tax, gernation skipping  transfer tax and the combined result of all taxes together. My skills as an attorney and a CPA help me advise you accordingly.

    In addition to our estate and elderlaw practices my firm offers a full range of legal serivices from Tax Law to Family Law to Litigation and Commercial Real Estate. This gives you the combined benefits of a team of attorneys that focuse on your area of law with the resources and support of entire law firm that can help you with other needs as they arise. With all sincerity, I assure that you will not regret trusting me. The protection I will provide you and your family with will be proven through my relentless efforts to bring forth the best service possible to each and every one of my clients.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What is gifting?

     Last post, I discussed one of the three common estate plans: NOT having a plan. However, this is not the case for all individuals out there. Another popular estate plan is known as “Gifting”. Just like I created a scenario for individuals without a plan in my last post, today I will review the process of gifting.

And so we begin…

     A widower with three children, Sam heard he can protect his assets if he gives them away. As a result, he decided to change the title of his assets to his oldest daughter Carol. Sam and Carol have a verbal understanding that the assets are really his, but Carol will have the legal title. Sam lives in the house he gave to Carol, and Carol lives in her own home with her husband.

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     While Sam is alive and well, he no longer has control over his assets since they are not legally his. In the event that he gets sued, his assets are not exposed because he technically has none. However, if Carol gets sued Sam’s assets are exposed because she has the legal title. Also, if carol gets divorced Sam’s assets become exposed.

     As he has aged, Sam is swept with a catastrophic illness and moves into Stage Two. Fortunately, Sam gave his assets away to Carol over five years ago so he is immediately qualified for Medicaid. If Sam gave his assets away less than five years before applying for Medicaid, Carol would have to give some or all of the assets back to Sam to pay for his care during the disqualification period. Because Sam did not have a Health Care Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney, a problem arose. For those of you unaware of what a Health Care Proxy is, it is the designation of decision making to another person if you are unable to make the decisions yourself. On the other hand, the Durable Power of Attorney is important in relation to Medicaid because it allows another person to act on your behalf when any legal decisions arise.

     Confused at what to do next, Carol went to an estate planning attorney for help. The attorney petitioned the probate court to have Sam declared legally incompetent (such an action would appoint Carol with the decision making powers). Eventually, Carol was appointed as Joe’s guardian for financial matters. Sam’s condition worsened, and the doctor informed Carol that Sam is in a persistent vegetative state and is highly unlikely to recover to resume a normal life.

     Now we have reached a point of conflict; there is disagreement amongst the children over Sam’s future. Carol’s brother believes his father would want to stay alive. Carol and her other brother think Sam would have wanted to terminate life support. As the siblings argue over who has the authority to make health care decisions for Sam, Sam is being kept alive.

     Upon his death, there was no probate since Sam had no assets. Now in Stage Three Carol sold the house that Sam gave her and liquidated all of his accounts. When Sam gave Carol the house, he also gave her his tax bases in the house. He purchased the house many years ago for $100,000. It is now worth $400,000. When Carol sold the house she paid capital gains tax at a rate of 20% (combined state and federal rate) or $60,000.

     As a result, Carol made gifts to her two brothers. Since she made gifts of over $12,000 in a year, she is now exposed to a gift tax at a rate of 50%.

     To have avoided the confusion over who had legal decision making authority, it would have been wise for Sam to plan his estate. The benefits of avoiding the disorganization described above can be achieved through the establishment of a trust or will.

    To learn more information about setting up a trust or will, contact Gerald Turner at 781-239-8900 or email at

Monday, June 7, 2010

What happens to your estate when you do not have a plan?

     For those of you who do not follow generalized examples, I have created a scenario that could very well happen to any individual out there if he or she does not plan his or her estate.

     To start off, I would like to remind you of the four stages of estate planning:
     Stage One: Alive and Well
     Stage Two: Catastrophic Illness
     Stage Three: Death
     Stage Four: Beyond Death

     To provide you with some background information, Joe and Mary are married with three children and have never been concerned about planning, so they have done nothing about it.

     In effect, during the First Stage of estate planning Joe and Mary have control over their assets without needing permission from anyone; however, if they get sued their assets are exposed. If any of their children get divorced or sued, the assets remain unaffected.

     Eventually, Joe got sick and had to go to a skilled nursing facility, moving the couple into Stage Two. As a result of Joe’s sickness, Mary had no access or control over Joe’s IRA, 401 (K) and personal savings account. She was also told that a lien would be placed on their home if it is not taken out of Joe’s name.

     Now, the family assets remain unprotected and Mary is spending $10,000 per month for Joe’s care. Mary realized she needed help so she went to a Medicaid planning attorney.

     Due to Joe’s illness, the attorney petitioned the probate court to have Joe declared legally incompetent. In effect, Mary was eventually appointed as Joe’s guardian. Before meeting with the attorney Mary had to pay privately for Joe’s care for several months at $8,000.00 to $10,000 a month. In addition, Mary had to pay the attorney for his time, advice, AND the Probate court proceeding on top of court fees! In total, she lost around $70,000 during the entire process.

     Eventually, Joe passed away which put Mary in Stage Three of estate planning. Since the assets were in Mary’s name, there was no probate upon Joe’s death. Mary lived for several years longer than Joe; however, she too passed away. Since the assets were in Mary’s name upon her death, there was a probate hearing preceding her death. The process took OVER a year. Since neither Joe nor Mary had trusts with estate tax provisions, some of Mary’s assets were exposed to estate taxes at a rate of 50%! The taxes MUST be paid within nine months of Mary’s death. Furthermore, Joe and Mary did NOT have life insurance because they did not believe in it.

     Now, Joe and Mary’s three children were left to deal with the sticky situation. How do they pay the estate tax with no liquid assets? With the delays of probate, the children decided that they had to liquidate Mary’s IRA in order to pay estate taxes. When the children took the money out of Mary’s IRA they had to pay income taxes at a rate of 30% (in order to pay the 50% estate tax).

     The end result of the entire process: unnecessary probate attorney fees, court fees, taxes, AND delays.

What’s the moral of the story?

     When it comes to estate planning, it is very important to make sure you are prepared for the future. The process will be made much simpler if it is done before the problem arises; that way, you do not have to worry about how your assets will be protected, who will protect them, and where will they go.

     If you are interested in learning more about estate planning and would like to set an appointment, you may contact Gerald Turner either at 781-239-8900 or

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