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Boston Elder Law Blog

Theft from incapacitated adults by their caregivers

There are adults across the country who are under the care of another due to a wide variety of health problems or old age. These caregivers are often in charge of helping their wards around their homes as well as helping to pay bills. However, as some Massachusetts residents may know, some of these caregivers take advantage of the incapacitated adults whom they are supposed to help.

One woman was charged with the care of a 91-year-old woman with a dementia-related illness, but instead of caring for her, the woman chose to steal from her employer. During the one month the woman was employed in 2017, the family noticed that several of the elderly woman's belongings began going missing. Sometime during October of that year, another family member called the authorities about the missing items. When the Sheriff's Office checked the caregiver's Facebook page, they saw several pictures of items that the woman intended to sell at an antique mall, which were identical to those that her elderly employer was missing.

5 reasons people do not talk about estate planning

Are you unsure how to talk to your elderly parents about estate planning? Maybe you know they have not done anything, and you worry about them. Maybe you fear that they have made some mistakes. Perhaps you just feel curious because they have not shared any of their plans with you and you want to avoid a difficult situation in the future.

If you do not know how to bring it up these delicate matters, you are not alone. When asked, about 43 percent of parents admit that they have never sat down with their adult children to talk about long-term care planning. Another 34 percent claimed they had never spoken in detail with their kids about retirement and living expenses. The parents in question were all 55 years of age or older.

Estate administration and social media

The internet has become much more than a form of entertainment over the years. In addition to individuals sharing the things that they like and their experiences online, many businesses rely on social media to advertise. Some people, as many Massachusetts residents may already know, even make a living posting on social media through the support of sponsors. More and more people are also paying bills digitally and storing important information online. This may present some problems when it comes to estate administration

It isn't only financial accounts or business related accounts that are important. Personal accounts, like Facebook or e-mail accounts, can also hold very important information. However, it can be very difficult for executors or family members to access this information later. Even with access to the account usernames and passwords, the website's policies may prevent anyone other than the account owner from accessing all of the account information. 

Including pets in wills

The family pet is, for many Massachusetts families, more than just a companion or living possession; these animals are members of the family. However, many owners are unsure of how to ensure that their beloved pets are taken care of after they are gone. Bequeathing money directly to a pet can often be problematic, but there are ways for pet owners to construct their wills in a way that protects and ensures the care of their pets.

Naming a caretaker is one of the steps that owners can take to ensure that their pets are cared for. This, in combination with the creation of a pet trust, can help to provide a proper home and care for many years after the animal's owner passes away. A trust can provide funds for the caretaker to draw from in order to pay for the animal's care. This might include vet care, grooming, food and supplies, daycare, or training expenses when needed. Setting up a trust can also help the owner to dictate how the funds are to be used.

Health care planning and power of attorney

Many Massachusetts residents who are creating an estate plan for the first time may be surprised by the number of steps involved or by the variety of options available to them. Some may believe that they only need to be concerned with creating a will, but health care planning can also be very important. Those who have long-term health concerns may be more likely to set up a health care power of attorney because appointing one of these individuals can help to prevent many problems before they begin.

A health care power of attorney is appointed to help make medical decisions on behalf on someone who is unable to make those decisions because of incapacitation. Unlike an advanced directive or living will, which usually only focuses on end-of-life medical care, a medical power of attorney can be used to make decisions about medical care no matter how old the individual. However, in some states, these documents are considered to be suggestions, and it is up to the appointed power of attorney to determine which treatments to use. 

The pros and cons of an incentive trust

An incentive trust appeals to you. Your two children are very different. While your daughter is well-grounded and you have no doubt she will spend her inheritance wisely, your younger son is far different. He has always spent money quickly and made frivolous purchases that you did not approve of.

When it was his own money, that was one thing. When it becomes your money, that's something else entirely. You worry that he'll end his own career and spend years wasting what you worked so hard to earn. You want to set up an incentive trust so that he only gets his inheritance by hitting milestones: graduating from college, starting a company, earning a certain amount per year. If he works hard, he gets more. You must keep him motivated in a way your daughter does not need.

Wills and their beneficiaries

Making an estate plan or writing a will can be difficult or confusing for many people. However, few people wonder what they should do when named as a beneficiary. People across the nation are bequeathed money or other assets through wills every day. In some cases, as some Massachusetts residents know, beneficiaries may not be expecting to receive anything from the deceased, and they may be unsure of what to do when they are named in a will.

Speaking with the executor can help those in these situations. The executor should be able to tell the beneficiary if the settlement will be discussed and what steps may need to be taken to receive what has been given to him or her. This may also help the beneficiary to determine if he or she needs to consult with an attorney. While the help of an attorney isn't usually required, there are certain circumstances where consulting with one could be helpful. These situations might include when an individual has a reason to claim ownership to an estate or other assets. 

Correcting estate planning mistakes

Many people across the country make an effort to plan for their future, including their death. However, as many Massachusetts residents may know, sometimes mistakes are made during estate planning, and even a person's most carefully laid plans can be ineffective. Fortunately, there are ways to correct these mistakes that would otherwise prevent a person's wishes from being carried out as they had intended. 

Not too many years ago, it was enough for people to keep their wills in a safe or lockbox inside of their homes. While this can be effective in some cases, there are other times where family members are unsure of where such documents would be kept and are ultimately unable to locate them in a timely fashion. However, today, many organizations are offering ways for people to store their estate plans online for easy access. Discussing plans with family members so that they have an idea of what their loved one's wishes are in advance can also be helpful.

Conservatorships of adults

Britney Spears is known and beloved as a musical artist, but she is also known for her rather infamous breakdowns. What many Massachusetts readers might not know is that Spear's assets have been controlled by her father from a young age. Her father was originally awarded conservatorship after she was checked into a psychiatric hospital in 2008. In other cases, conservatorships or guardianships may be awarded to a third party or to an attorney. 

More than one million people across the country are under conservatorship or guardianship. These individuals have usually been determined to be unable to care for themselves due to a physical or mental disability. When someone is awarded conservatorship or guardianship over another person, then he or she gains control of that person's finances and possibly other aspects of the person's life. Some of these other aspects may include where the person lives and works, whether or not he or she can marry, if he or she can vote, as well as any medical decisions that need to be made. 

Estate planning in the computer age

Technology is a major part of nearly everyone's lives today. Many Massachusetts residents have accounts for a variety of different things, ranging from financial accounts to games or social media. For security reasons, most people use different usernames and passwords for each of these accounts, but that can make things difficult when it comes to estate planning

In the 80s and 90s, many people began to keep records of their accounts and any passwords or passcodes needed to access them. Now, rather than keeping hard copies of this information, many people are choosing to use digital services to keep track of everything. A few 'Death Apps' and other similar services have been developed to help organize the information so that it is more easily accessible to executors and beneficiaries.