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    Monday, May 15, 2017 00:00
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News

DALEY AND NADEAU SUPREME COURT CASES

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This past Tuesday, May 30, 2017, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) handed down a pretty big blow to MassHealth by ruling in favor of the appellants. The SJC decided to hear the Daley case and the Nadeau case at the same time as the issues in both cases were so intricately related. This favorable decision was due to the endless work by members of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys as well as assistance from the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the Massachusetts Real Estate Bar Association.

The Daley case involved the transfer of a remainder interest in real estate into an irrevocable trust with a retained life estate in the deed itself on the part of the applicant. The Nadeau case involved simply a transfer of the entire fee simple interest in real estate into an irrevocable trust without a retention of a life estate in the deed itself on the part of the applicant.

The court held in both cases that the real estate housed in each of the irrevocable trusts was not a countable asset and reversed the prior judgments that were in favor of MassHealth. As a result, the applicants should now become eligible for MassHealth benefits. In other words, these trusts have passed muster insofar as the highest court in the land is concerned.

MassHealth had presented what I believe to have been an outrageous argument by claiming that the Health Care Financing Agency (HCFA) Transmittal 64 in effect contained language that should lead to the conclusion that a right to use, occupy and possess real estate held in an irrevocable trust was a “payment” to a MassHealth applicant/nursing home resident. The SJC rebuked MassHealth’s argument unequivocally. In a nutshell. The SJC stated a use and occupancy right does not rise to the level of a Trustee being able to sell the underlying real estate and use the net sales proceeds therefrom to pay for nursing home care.

The SJC also indicated that a reserved life estate in and of itself does not render the underlying real estate a “countable” asset for MassHealth eligibility purposes. It went on to say, regarding the Daley Trust, that the remainder interest that was transferred into the irrevocable trust itself was not a “countable” asset as well.

It is great news for elderly applicants who have placed their home in an irrevocable trust that included a provision for use and occupancy. The SJC could have gone a lot further in setting MassHealth straight on many other issues pertaining to irrevocable trusts. My guess is MassHealth will continue to try to attack irrevocable trusts by pivoting to the next absurd argument. Therefore, the fight is not over and will most likely continue.

However, this was a big step in the right direction. The decision was just released as this column was written so members of the elder bar (including me) will spend many months digesting it and of course revising trust provisions accordingly. Hopefully, these two decisions along with the previously-decided Heyn appellate court case will at least make MassHealth think twice before making an unreasonable and legally-flawed argument in an attempt to attack an otherwise properly drafted irrevocable trust.

The Massachusetts elder bar should be commended for such voracious advocacy on behalf of the elderly community.

 

Social Security Advice for Soon-To-Be Retirees

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you recommend any services that help pre-retirees decide when to start drawing their Social Security benefits? My wife and I are approaching retirement age and want to carefully weigh our options to make sure we’re maximizing our benefits.

Approaching Retirement

Dear Approaching,

Deciding when to begin collecting your Social Security benefits could be one of the most important retirement-income decisions you’ll make. The difference between a good decision and a poor one could cost you tens of thousands of dollars over your retirement, so doing your homework and weighing your options now is a wise move.

What to Consider

As you may already know, you can claim Social Security any time between the ages of 62 and 70, but each year you wait increases your benefit by 5 to 8 percent. But there are other factors you need to take into account to help you make a good decision, like your health and family longevity, whether you plan to work in retirement, along with spousal and survivor benefits.

To help you weigh your claiming strategies, you need to know that Social Security Administration claims specialists are not trained or authorized to give you personal advice on when you should start drawing your benefits. They can only provide you information on how the system works under different circumstances. To get advice you’ll need to turn to other sources.

Web-Based Help

Your first step in getting Social Security claiming strategy advice is to go to SSA.gov/myaccount to get your personalized statement that estimates what your retirement benefits will be at age 62, full retirement age or when you turn 70. These estimates are based on your yearly earnings that are also listed on your report.

Once you get your estimates for both you and your wife, there are many online tools you can turn to that can compare your options so you can make an informed decision.

Some free sites that offer basic calculations include AARP’s Social Security Benefits Calculator (AARP.org/socialsecuritybenefits), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Planning for Retirement tool (ConsumerFinance.gov/retirement) and SSAnalyze that’s offered by United Capital (BedrockCapital.com/ssanalyze).

But if you want a more thorough analysis check out Maximize My Social Security (MaximizeMySocialSecurity.com) or Social Security Choices (SocialSecurityChoices.com), which both charge $40. These services, which are particularly helpful to married couples as well as divorced or widowed persons, will run scenarios based on your circumstances and show how different filing strategies affect the total payout over the same time frame.

Personal Advice

If you want human help, there are specialized firms and financial advisors that can advise you too.

One such firm is Social Security Solutions (SocialSecuritySolutions.com, 866-762-7526). They offer several levels of web-based and personalized service (ranging from $20 to $500) including their $125 “Advised” plan that runs multiple calculations and comparisons, recommends a best course of action in a detailed report, and gives you a one-on-one session with a Social Security specialist over the phone to discuss the report and ask questions.

Or, you can get help through a financial planner. Look for someone who is a fee-only certified financial planner (CFP) that charges on an hourly basis and has experience in Social Security analysis. To find someone, use the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors online directory at NAPFA.org, or try the Garrett Planning Network (GarrettPlanningNetwork.com), which is a network of fee-only advisers that charge between $150 and $300 per hour.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

 

 

Creature Teachers bring live animals to the South Branch of the Peabody Institute Library

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The South Branch is kicking off summer reading with live animals!  Come join us as we welcome critters from all over the world while experienced animal educators talk about where each animal comes from, what types of diverse habitats they live in, and why some animals do better in some environments while others do not. This program is presented by Creature Teachers, a family-owned business dedicated to educating people about animals and their environments. Learn how to “Build a Better World” for animals in this interactive program!

This program is free and open to the public and will take place at the South Branch of the Peabody Institute Library located at 78 Lynn St. on Monday, June 26 at 10:30AM. Space is limited and registration is required. For more information or to reserve your child’s free spot, please go to www.peabodylibrary.org, call 978-531-3380 or stop by in person.


   

The Advocate HOROSCOPE

Aries (March 21-April 20): Your head was likely in the clouds most of this week, so ground yourself back down to earth this weekend. Double-check your calendar and make sure you didn’t miss any important birthdays or events that might require an apology. Start off next week super organized and you’ll get it all done (even though it seems impossible!).

Taurus (April 21-May 20): Observe closely this week where you give energy and where you receive. There is a good chance you are allowing someone to take and take and take from you without giving anything back, which isn’t like you, which tells me it’s family. Put your foot down and demand some more help on their end!

Gemini (May 21-June 20): Your natural Gemini nature might get the best of you this weekend and next week, causing you to flip back and forth with your personality. One second you’ll want to be in a big crowded place, the next you’ll want to hide at home with the windows shut. The only way to handle these kinds of ups and downs is to not make plans too far ahead of time!

Cancer (June 21-July 22): Friends and family might overstay their welcome or demand too much this weekend. Don’t allow anyone to steal your time or resources!! Especially if they aren’t the type to show true gratitude. Put up some boundaries and even use a white lie if needed; you are likely to need some relaxation, not stress right now!

Leo (July 23-August 22): This weekend you are likely to feel very drained and not yourself. Surrounding yourself with people and enthusiasm could be just the fix – maybe a concert or event in the city? Partying and letting loose will have you feeling 100% by Monday. Just say no next week when a self-centered friend asks you for yet another favor.

Virgo (August 23-September 22): You are always a busy bee, Virgo, but this week and next you might feel like your head is spinning off. Most of these tasks, though, were taken on by choice, and therefore might leave family/friends feeling like they come second if you cancel plans with them. Be sure to make time for what really matters. (Hint: It’s not your job.)

Libra (September 23-October 22): When drama starts to brew this week, nip it in the butt right away. Don’t stoop to the level of those around you and give into the he said/she said junk – go right to the source and present only facts. Keeping things professional will keep you out of the fire, and also looking much more mature than your childish coworkers!

Scorpio (October 23-November 22): This weekend Mars entering fellow water sign Cancer will have you craving adventure and new hobbies. You might also develop a little too much confidence as far as spending goes. Be easy on your wallet but don’t turn down any activity opportunities!

Sagittarius (November 23-December 21): Make sure to dot you i’s and cross your t’s this week and next, Sagittarius. Little details are likely to slip your mind, causing bigger problems in the long run. Slow yourself down and you won’t forget anything! What’s the rush anyways?

Capricorn (December 22-January 19): You might find yourself in a very fragile state lately, ready to breakdown over even small things. Let it all out, Capricorn, there are probably quite a few things you have suppressed that are causing you to act this way. Don’t beat yourself up – in fact, you might be the source of all this pressure …

Aquarius (January 20-February 19): Proud is a good word for you this week and next. Now is an important time to celebrate graduations and other big events in the lives of those around you. Pay attention to them and be generous with your gifts; you were likely the one who watched them tackle so many great challenges!

Pisces (February 20-March 20): Don’t offer time or money you don’t have just because you feel bad. Giving away resources you yourself are going to need isn’t smart, not to mention there is a good chance that those complaining around you are actually okay. They are just dramatic, and you, overly sympathetic – a lethal combination!

Francesca Piazza is a Lynnfield native available for astrology consultations, tarot readings/parties, crystal healing, custom jewelry, and reiki. Please “like” Sister Fran Designs and Readings on Facebook for more information, or contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or SisterFranDesigns.com.

 

Peabody’s finest educators honored at Legacy Awards

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Last week Peabody honored some of its greatest contributors to the cause of public education. Sister Christine Gubisch, Dr. Donna Costa, Elaine Marshall, June Kessel and Lorraine Benoit were bestowed with the George Peabody Legacy Award for their contributions to Peabody’s youths.

The awardees ranged in background. Lorraine Benoit is a celebrated coach who played an instrumental role in bringing varsity teams to the schools’ women’s sports. Dr. Donna Costa is a testament to the axiom “never give up,” after dropping out of school and later earning an advanced degree in education at Harvard. She is also a hero, using her skills as a CPR instructor to one time save a student’s life. Sister Christine Gubisch is a young children’s teacher who collaborated with her students to make an original CD and used proceeds of sales to benefit children’s schooling in poverty-stricken areas around the world. Elaine Marshall is a psychology teacher and educator with a strong following. And June Kessel is an educator and champion of the Stage One Drama Club at Peabody High.

The Peabody Education Foundation, which is made up of local officials, educators and other community members, helped bring the concept to life. Founded in 1985, the organization “provide[s] unique programs and advanced technology to thousands of students who might otherwise not enjoy such experiences due to budget constraints,” and regularly makes contributions to the cause of improving education in Peabody. The organization started hosting the awards in 2013.

“We have awards for everything else, why not for education? Seeing this come to light is really a dream come true,” said Councillor-at-Large Dave Gravel, owner of GraVoc Associates, a key sponsor of the event.

The Legacy Award is an annual award that recognizes those that make education better. The award keeps George Peabody’s “legacy” alive by honoring those educators and policymakers.

The noted philanthropist from the 19th century contributed significantly to making Peabody what it is today. He started the Peabody Institute Library and was a champion of education, also founding the tradition of honoring the top Peabody High School students with an award and scholarship that remains to this day. Library Trustees of the Peabody Institute Library awarded the students just the day before.

By Melanie Higgins


   

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