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.
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.
With the proper estate planning, the following situations could have been avoided. The truth is, many fail to adequately plan their estate, which can potentially lead to outcomes such as these 5 worst-case scenarios. Read more.
This week Sheryl Dennis will be attending the 2013 Planning for the Generations Symposium — a 3 day conference taking place in Denver, CO for estate, elder law and financial professionals.
While there, Sheryl will have the chance to collaborate with colleagues and other experts in the fields of estate planning and elder law, ultimately sharing in a profound opportunity to explore various beneficial approaches to developing and nurturing client relationships.
She is looking forward to connecting with others in the field and taking much from the experience. Please see there website to learn more about the symposium.
The number of Americans over 65 who are divorced has radically increased in the last 15 years and elder law attorneys believe that money is partly to blame. The amount of couples over 65 that are divorced has risen nearly 60% since 1990 whereas the overall amount of couples divorced has risen only 8%. The issue of fighting over money causing divorce isn’t news, but in the case of couples 65 and older divorce is in fact conducted to preserve the money.
One of the common factors between many of the older couples getting divorced is that one of the spouses needs long term care and nursing home stays. Medicare, the government insurance program for people over 65, does not cover such long term care options. Medicaid, the Government program for low-income individuals does cover such programs; however, it can’t be used until a person exhausts all his resources. When one of the spouses gets sick, many married couples have to decrease most of their assets to qualify for Medicaid, leaving little money for the healthy spouse. If the couple divorces, the healthy spouse may be able to preserve many of her assets. Elder Law attorneys suspect that this proposition is the main reason why the amount of older couples divorcing has sharply risen.
In addition to money leading to elder divorce, Barbara Waxman, an executive and life coach in San Francisco, states that “many people, especially women, emerge from busy child bearing years with time to re-evaluate their lives and their partners, and decide that they want a relationship that works.” Mediated divorces are usually the perfect choice for these older couples because there is usually no hostility in the split, and often the split is actually commenced to help the other spouse preserve their assets.
The desire to preserve assets for the healthy spouse is still the greatest cause of divorce in aging couples. There is another way to preserve assets, however, and that’s to carry out proper estate planning. An experienced estate planning attorney can help couples properly plan for the costs and decisions involved in a long term care situation and can reduce the need for divorce as the only means to preserve assets. Estate planning is essential in order to properly plan for illness and aging so that the best option is not divorce or reducing the couples assets so they can qualify for Medicaid.