A few years ago I wrote a blog about drafting a health care proxy for your young freshmen. This is a topic I often talk about because it is so important, but most people never think of it. Well, I was thrilled when recently a young family member forwarded an e-mail from her college and asked for my help. This e-mail recommended that she have a health care proxy, power of attorney, and HIPAA authorization drafted before the start of school.
Elder abuse comes in many forms. An overwhelming majority of it is financial abuse. If you have an elder parent or family member who lives alone, he or she may be at risk of a new wave of telemarketing fraud targeting the elderly.
One recent case of telemarketing fraud billed elderly consumers for medical alert devices they never ordered. Telemarketers would claim they were calling in response to a request for information from the person or a family member and then try to sell them the device. Even those who didn’t order were sent a bill along with the shipment. The company behind the telemarketing fraud would then use threats and intimidation to induce the victims to pay.
If you don’t think telemarketing fraud can happen to your loved one, consider this. According to a study by the AARP, seniors over age 50 are disproportionately at risk for becoming victims of telemarketing fraud. The study found that the average age of victims was 69 and that women were twice as likely as men to become victims.
Telemarketing fraud is also becoming increasingly sophisticated. Fast-talking predators use high pressure sales techniques and psychological ploys to overcome a senior’s initial resistance. Some other common schemes involve low-cost, high-risk investments, fake charities, time-sensitive product deals, or prize winnings that seniors are told they have to pay taxes or a fee to collect.
When a senior becomes a victim of telemarketing fraud, it can be financially devastating. Because these crimes are hard to trace, it is very difficult for victims to get their money back. Sadly, many incidents of telemarketing fraud against the elderly simply go unreported. Elderly victims may be embarrassed, don’t know where to go to report the crime, or fear they will lose their independence if they do report it.
Here are some steps you can take to help protect your elderly parents or family members from becoming victims.
- Talk to your parents about types of telemarketing fraud and remind them never to pay up front for a product or service, or to give out personal information such as a credit card or social security number over the phone.
- Offer to help them manage their personal finances so you can monitor bank and credit card statements for any unusual activity.
- Have them sign up for national Do Not Call list (888-382-1222, www.donotcall.gov) to help cut down on telemarketing calls.
- Design a call script, such as “I don’t give out personal information over the phone,” to aid them in ending calls from pushy telemarketers.
- If your elderly parent has dementia, or is otherwise incapacitated, you may want to contact an elder law attorney to advise you on utilizing your parent’s durable power of attorney and/or obtaining a guardianship or conservatorship.
For more suggestions on how to identify and prevent elderly telemarketing scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer education website.
The best protection against telemarketing fraud and elder abuse is to ensure that your loved ones are properly cared for and that their assets are protected. Proper estate planning can help give you and your loved ones piece of mind. Contact us to discuss various planning options today.
Photo Credit: Tim Dorr
After the passing of a loved one, a common question by one of the children is: Can I get paid executor fees? If you are appointed the executor, or personal representative (as it is called in Massachusetts), of a deceased loved one’s estate, you may face many challenges. There are a number of duties for which you will be responsible, including gathering and securing the deceased’s assets and household belongings, paying debts and taxes, filing court paperwork, and making distributions to beneficiaries. The process can be time-consuming, complex, and emotionally draining. Even when everything runs smoothly, questions are likely to arise.
In most cases, the answer is yes, you are entitled to receive executor fees for your services. However, there are some issues to consider before you can receive payment from the estate. If there is a Will, the deceased may have specified the amount of compensation or prohibited executor fees. This latter situation sometimes occurs when the executor is a family member who is also a beneficiary under the Will. If the Will is silent regarding executor fees or the deceased dies without leaving a will, then executor fees are determined by state law. This is where things may get complicated.
Consider the case of Lawrence, who was appointed the personal representative of an estate in Massachusetts where the primary asset was a house subject to a small mortgage. Lawrence sold the house, paid off the mortgage, dealt with the contents of the estate, and the assisted his attorney with court paperwork. He also made distributions to the beneficiaries. He charged the estate $7,500, what he considered a fair price for his services. When one of the beneficiaries objected to the fee, the court denied the executor fee because Lawrence did not have any records to back up his executor fees.
Unlike in some states, where the executor fees are fixed amounts equal to a percentage of the probate estate, in Massachusetts the executor is entitled to “reasonable compensation” for services rendered. The executor fees can also be subject to approval by the probate court.
What exactly is “reasonable compensation” though? How do you determine for which services you are entitled to be paid executor fees and at what rate? There are no clear guidelines under the law in Massachusetts, but the probate court will consider factors such as the size of the estate, the time reasonably required to administer the estate, whether the services rendered were reasonably necessary, and the amounts usually paid to others for similar services.
So what does all this mean in practice? Most importantly, you must keep detailed records. Do not wait until the end of the process to attempt to compile a list of services performed. You will need to disclose your executor fees in the final accounting filed with the court and/or shared with the beneficiaries. When you do, you should include:
- a detailed record of the tasks performed
- the amount of time spent on each task
- the hourly rate billed for each task.
For example, a record that lists: “February 1, 2013: 2 hours at $25/hour preparing financial statement for accountant,” along with similar entires, are more likely to be approved by the court than: “$1,000 for bookkeeping services.”
Finally, keep in mind that any executor fees you receive are considered income and are taxable. If you want to avoid tax consequences, you have the option to decline compensation for your services.
Although it is an honor to be appointed or asked to serve as an executor, it is not a situation you should take lightly. Most often having the guidance of an attorney is necessary to avoid common costly mistakes. Contact us to discuss your rights and obligations.
Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light,” is best known for his works of beautiful cottages, villages and churches – paintings of idyllic country life. In April of this year Kinkade died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and valium. The Kinkade estate battle that has transpired since then has not been beautiful country life. [Read more…]
Many families have resolved to get an estate plan in place, or reviewing an older, existing one. This should be high on everyone’s list. Yet, many still won’t find time to get around to it this year. This year, how about a celebrity’s estate planning tragedy, that is all too common, to help encourage you…
Jim Morrison, the late lead singer of The Doors, died in 1971 at age 27. Before his death he had signed a simple, one-page Will that left everything to his girlfriend, Pamela Courson (or if she died before he did, to his brother and sister).As a result of the Will, Courson inherited his entire estate when he passed. Unfortunately, Courson, herself, died shortly afterward. Because Courson didn’t have a Will, most of Morrison’s fortune then went — by law — to Courson’s closest living relatives: her parents. [Read more…]
We’re not only voting for the next President and a Senator from Massachusetts in November, but on a battery of ballot questions. Ballot Question 2 is one of the more controversial. The so-called “Death with Dignity” or “Right to Die” legislation would allow an adult resident who is (1) capable of making and communicating health care decisions, (2) diagnosed with an incurable and irreversible disease that will cause death within six months, and (3) voluntarily, and in an informed manner, so decides to obtain a prescription for medication to end his or her life. You can read the proposed legislation here.
Oregon and Washington state already have similar legislation in place. In Oregon, most candidates are well educated cancer sufferers over the age of 65, who died at home and were enrolled in hospice care. This “typical candidate” is familiar to many of us working with elders. Maybe it is because so many of us know or have known someone like this that the “Right to Die” issue has strong voices on either side. [Read more…]
An 81-year-old woman in Rhode Island was evicted shortly before Christmas from the home she had lived in for more than 40 years – because she failed to pay a $474 sewer bill. A corporation then bought her house at a tax sale for $836.39…and later resold it for $85,000. While this is an extreme case, it’s a symptom of a growing trend. More and more seniors around the country are being forced to pay large, unnecessary fees – or even losing their homes – as a result of unpaid property taxes.
Because property taxes aren’t regular monthly expenses like utility or cable bills, they’re often among the first things that seniors overlook if they begin to have some difficulty managing their own affairs. And they’re frequently missed by children and caretakers as well. Also, many older people who have recently finished paying off a mortgage aren’t used to paying their property tax bills, because for decades they were paid directly by the lender. [Read more…]
Contrary to popular belief, your school Emergency Contact Form will not keep your children from spending time in the hands of social services if something bad happens to you. The emergency form only gives named contacts permission to pick your child up if they are sick, not to take short-term custody of your children if one or both parents die or are incapacitated due to illness or an accident.
For this reason, I recommend creating a back to school emergency plan as your kids head back this fall, so there is no confusion or legal headaches should you find yourself in this situation. This plan, with the help of your estate planning attorney, can be created in four easy steps: [Read more…]
These days it can be difficult to meet someone whose life has not been touched by Alzheimer’s. Most people have seen a parent, grandparent, or perhaps an in-law suffer from this disease, and the havoc it can wreak on the family.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 120,000 have Alzheimer’s in Massachusetts and that number will grow as baby boomers age. Nearly 50% of those aged 85 and older will develop Alzheimer’s, and of those aged 65, nearly 1 in 8 will develop the fatal disease.
Until very recently, there was even more for Massachusetts families to worry about. Before bill H 3947 was signed into law by Governor Patrick this week, nursing homes could advertise dementia or Alzheimer’s care without actually having any special accommodations for residents suffering from these conditions or any kind of special training for their staff. [Read more…]
Many improvements have been made improving the quality of life for the 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States. Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has risen from age 25 in 1983 to age 60 presently. Similar improvements have also been made across the board for those living with special needs. With quality educational programs, a stimulating and supportive home environment, good health care, and positive support from friends and the community, people with Down syndrome can develop their full potential and lead fulfilling lives. However, the longer life expectancy has families dealing with issues they may not have had to deal with in the past. Considering a Special Needs Trust is a great way to overcome this obstacle. [Read more…]