Is alimony a possibility for clients who divorce after age 65? What are the issues in guardian initiated divorces? How to tackle Medicaid planning? These were some of the topics discussed at MassBar Educates Panel, “Gray Divorce: Representing the Elderly Divorce Client”. Jon fields joined elder law attorneys Steven Cohen and Patricia Keane Martin on the panel to discuss the unique issues in representing elderly clients in divorce. With life expectancies on the rise and older people the biggest demographic for divorces, gray divorce is no longer a niche subject. Please click on the link to find out more about the event and MassBar Educates program.
When we think of “Undue Influence”, we think of contested wills, families divided and older, vulnerable people exploited by self-interested relatives. Declaring undue influence is often used as a reason to contest a will or estate plan, but there are two ways to consider undue influence in estate planning.
If you’re the one drafting a will or estate plan, it’s important to avoid any ambiguity about your estate planning decisions and who may have influenced them. When you distribute an inheritance in a way that’s uneven, questions of undue influence may be raised, especially if the main beneficiaries of the inheritance are involved in the estate planning process to the exclusion of the others. Things you can do to ensure that your wishes appear crystal clear to others and free of undue influence include getting a formal assessment of your mental capabilities before you draft estate planning documents and making sure family members aren’t present at discussions about your will with your attorney. This last step may need to be so clear-cut that you should avoid being driven or accompanied to your attorney’s office by a family member or loved one benefiting from your will.
If you are a family member that suspects undue influence, there are three things you need to be able to prove: firstly, that the affected family member or loved one was acting in an unusual way when he or she allotted property in the estate plan, secondly that the loved one or family member was frail, old, mentally incapable or in some way vulnerable to influence, and thirdly that the person who is alleged to have been the influencer had the opportunity to do so. In general the burden of proof in this situation is on the person or people who are asserting undue influence. Sometimes it works the other way, for example if the alleged influencer had a fiduciary relationship with the relative or loved one. This could
include a child, spouse or agent under a power of attorney.
Some signs of undue influence include evidence of coercion or harassment, and also attempts to isolate the loved one or relative from other family members or friends.
If you suspect undue influence or want to protect a will from being contested on grounds of undue influence, contact Attorney Sheryl Dennis. Attorney Dennis is highly experienced in the areas of estate planning and elder law. She can help you draft a will in which your wishes are clearly outlined or discuss with you the best way to challenge suspected undue influence. Please contact Fields, Dennis & Cooper today, to see how Attorney Dennis can help.
Harper Lee, legendary and reclusive author of the literary classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” passed away in February 2016 at the age of 89. Though Lee fiercely maintained her privacy, she did publish another novel before the end of her life entitled “Go Set a Watchman.” As a result of her literary success, Lee reportedly made $3 million per year in royalties from book sales—just from “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Her estate may be worth an estimated $35 million or more.
What makes Lee’s estate planning a unique case study is, first, that she was not married nor did she have children. Therefore, no apparent, direct heirs exist. However, she did have family, who are still living, including a nephew. Most likely, the estate will be awarded to them. The second part of Lee’s unique and fascinating estate planning is that we don’t know if she set up trusts for her family. Wealthy people often set up trusts for family members, because trusts are kept private. A trust is a secure way to keep one’s finances and who receives the person’s assets after death private. For the author, who was named number four on TIME’s Top 10 Most Reclusive Celebrities list, she would doubtless have wanted to keep her affairs out of the public eye. We have no way of knowing whether Lee got her affairs in order before her death, and her case was certainly one in which not preparing an adequate estate plan would have been against the author’s wishes in life.
According to the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, “A trust is the best way for celebrities and others to maximize their privacy. A will is a public document. Assets titled in the name of the individual are disclosed in a probate proceeding. But, if a trust is funded during lifetime, neither the assets owned by the trust, nor the terms of the trust, become public.” Thus, setting up a trust or trusts would have probably been a suitable course of action for Harper Lee.
At Fields and Dennis LLP, Boston estate planning lawyer Sheryl Dennis is happy to set up trusts for those who want to preserve their privacy, even after they have passed on. As an estate planning lawyer, Sheryl understands that privacy is of vital importance, especially if a person has considerable finances and assets. She is a member of WealthCounsel, ElderCounsel and the Academy of Special Needs Planners. Please contact Sheryl Dennis today if you are looking to set up a trust.
The Massachusetts Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana (Medical Marijuana Law) took effect on January 1, 2013, legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and exempting individuals with qualifying medical conditions from being penalized under Massachusetts law for marijuana use.
To become a “qualifying patient,” a doctor, licensed in Massachusetts, must have diagnosed the patient as having a debilitating medical condition such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, HIV or AIDs. Other conditions are reviewed on a case by case basis. As one gets older, the proclivity to chronic illness increases, making many older adults candidates for this treatment option. With so many elderly adults residing in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, it is interesting to consider how the use of medical marijuana will be handled in these instances. Read more.