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Office News: It's still early in the year.....are you ready?

The year is still young......PLEASE think (more importantly DO something) about planning ahead.The outreach message we're hoping Kathy and others can continue to sow amongst any and all fifty (50) or older penetrates more deeply the more we run across cases where people haven't planned, waited long after a parent's death to act, or some other type of self-created problem. If you have real estate, you need a will - if for nothing else then the ability to save time, costs of $1500 or more, and court  action by eliminating the requirement under law of a license to sell. Regardless of what you have, it's far better to have a pre-planned idea of what will happen. Our commitment is to spread the message of Be Prepared to all, in the hopes it will reach some. Seeing Kathy come to an understanding of this has been a real blessing - there's nothing like a marketing director with evangelistic zeal.

Legal News: Will Contests

This office has been involved in a number of will contests. There is a specific procedure to be followed. You must file an appearance before the return date of a formal proceeding; or file your own petition for formal administration of contesting a will filed under informal proceedings. The grounds available are

(1) The will maker (Testator) lacked the mental capacity to know what he was signing, or what the will actually said;

(2) The Testator was the subject of undue influence. The last will contest this office had was in Middlesex Probate, representing a disinherited adopted child. Our job was to prove the father was subject to undue influence by the natural born child to write the older adopted child out of the will. The burden of proof is on the contesting party (Petitioner) and the person defending the will (Respondent) does not have to do anything beyond proving the will was legally made.

If anyone is considering a will contest, contact us ASAP, as there are strict time limits and procedures that need be followed.

Watch Out for these Popular Social Media Scams

People tell you that you should get on social media so that you can keep in touch with your family and friends. It's great and lots of fun to see what your friends are up to but it is also a great place for digital crooks to prey on those that are unexpecting and too new at this to realize what's happening.

Here are a few tips on some of the most popular social media platforms to keep you from being the next victim:

INSTAGRAM

This platform is all about posting photos and videos, but crooks are able to see who you follow and many post direct messages to you based on your interests to lure you in.

For example, if you follow #Italy, someone may try to lure you into buying a cheap airline ticket to Rome. Unfortunately, it could be a scam just to get your money.

To protect yourself, keep your settings secure on your profile and don't respond to any messages that were unsolicited.

GOOGLE HANGOUTS

This is a great place to chat with your family and friends, share photos, and even make a phone call. But there have been a lot of reports of scams on this platform lately.

The latest is an Employment scam.

This scam starts by sending you an email offering you a job that will give the first paycheck in advance. You just need to send part of that check back to cover application fees. The job is fake, and the check will bounce, but only after you've sent them fees that are real.

Keep in mind that if a job is real, you'll never have to send them money. Avoid all offers that sound similar to this one.

NEXTDOOR

The platform is supposed to be limited to only your neighbors which makes people feel safer on it. However, there have been reports of fake contractors for hire or car sales.

These crooks want your info so that can then steal your money. Don't fall for it. Always assume that you cannot trust a stranger online, even if they claim to be connected locally.

WORDS WITH FRIENDS

This platform is often the site for romance scams. After playing the game with a stranger, they may say things like, "I'd love to meet you. You're really smart." You may then get told something like, "My son needs surgery. Could you please help?"

To keep your online gaming safe, only play with people you know. If you do play with people you don't know, never give out your financial or personal info.

FACEBOOK

If you "friend" someone that is a scammer, the crook will have access to your profile and can then clone your account. They may also clone the account of someone you do know and then send you a friend request in an attempt to get access to your account.

Don't accept a friend request from a person that you don't know and never accept a second friend request from someone that you do know without verifying that they have created a new profile.

TAKEAWAY

Social media platforms can be a great way to stay in touch with friends and loved ones, and with the right precautions, can be completely safe. If you're not sure, don't do it.

Legal News: 5 Steps for First-Time Family Caregivers

Whether you're just beginning to anticipate a need or taking care of a family member full time, these tips, resources and checklists can help you get organized and find support on your caregiving journey. Remember: Just take it one step at a time.

1. Start the conversation

The right time to talk about the future is now, even if it's uncomfortable.

Ask your loved one about their preferences, values and wishes for things that matter, from health to finances. If you wait until an accident, fall or serious diagnosis, when everyone's stress levels are sky high, your choices may be more limited and more difficult to evaluate.

  • Look for an opening. Rather than bringing up a tough topic out of the blue, find a suitable conversation starter — perhaps a recent comment from your loved one or an article you saw online. Example: “You mentioned your eyes are bothering you. Is this causing problems with reading or driving?”

     
  • Keep trying. For some people, admitting they need help can be hard. If your first talk doesn't go well, gently try again. If you are repeatedly shut out, consider asking another family member, a trusted friend or a doctor to approach the person about your concerns.

     
  • Don't avoid the subject of money. It's often at the heart of decisions you'll make as a caregiver. Respectfully ask your loved one to review bank accounts and health insurance so you can know how much is available to cover potential costs.

     
  • Listen to and respect your loved one's desires. The person you're caring for always should participate in discussions about his needs and plans, to every extent possible.

     
  • Bring others into the conversation. Ask a few other people close to your loved one — family members or friends — to be part of the process. Conflicts may arise, but don't be afraid to talk through them. Better to do so now than in a time of crisis.

2. Form a team

Trying to handle the responsibilities of caregiving by yourself can lead to burnout and stress-related health problems. Don't go it alone.

Reach out to form a larger network of family, friends and community resources that can help you. And always remember to consider your loved one a part of the team.

  • Go deep and go wide. Team members who have little free time or don't live nearby can still play valuable roles. Maybe they can pitch in with bill paying, financial help or meal organizing. The computer whiz in the family could set up an electronic calendar for chores or dinner delivery.

     
  • Decide who's in charge. It's important to have a point person to keep the process moving and make sure everyone on the team understands plans and priorities. In most families, one person assumes the primary role by virtue of living nearby, having a close relationship with the care recipient or being a take-charge person. That might be you.

     
  • Consider a mediator. When difficult subjects and potential disagreements arise, engaging an outside facilitator, such as a social worker or minister, can be useful to keep the team focused and maintain smooth, productive communication.

3. Make a plan

Now work with your team to develop a plan, thinking both short term — such as determining who will be responsible for each caregiving task — and long term.

You can't anticipate every detail or scenario, but being forward-thinking now will help you respond more quickly and effectively in an emergency. That mind-set also helps ensure that everyone keeps the focus on what's best for your loved one.

  • Determine roles. Ask team members what tasks they can take on. Who is free to travel to medical appointments? Who can prepare meals a few times a week? Who can make sure the bills are paid? If you're the primary caregiver, delegating even small tasks can make a big difference in your busy schedule.

     
  • Be honest with yourself. Think about what you are prepared to do. Caregiving can involve intimate tasks, such as helping a loved one bathe or use the toilet. If you are uncomfortable with something, ask if another team member can step in. If financially feasible, consider hiring assistance.

     
  • Put it in writing. A written record will ensure that everyone is on the same page and avoid misunderstandings. Summarize and distribute the plan in writing and make sure everyone understands it will evolve as time passes and the care recipient's condition changes.

     
  • Find the best way to communicate. You may want to set up an email group to keep everyone up to date. You might also consider using an online scheduling tool such as Lotsa Helping Hands to organize and stay current on who's doing what, when.

4. Care for your loved one

This step encompasses the others, of course, and every caregiver's situation is different.

But a wide range of resources and tools can make your job easier, whether you're caring for a parent who lives in another state, a spouse with a long-term illness or a sibling with dementia. In any caregiving situation, find out in advance where to get information and assistance.

  • Advocate for yourself. Let doctors know that you are the primary caregiver and need to be informed about your loved one's condition and treatments. Ask for training if you are expected to do procedures at home, such as injecting medication or changing bandages.

     
  • Keep the home safe. If the person you're caring for has difficulty getting around or their vision or hearing fades, some simple changes can make the home less hazardous. Consider installing items such as adjustable shower seats, grab bars, handrails and night-lights.

     
  • Stay organized. Caregivers need to keep track of lots of information — emergency phone numbers, health records, prescriptions and more. It can feel overwhelming. Caregiving apps such as CareZone and Medisafe can help you stay on top of appointments, medication times and other key information.

5. Care for yourself

Family caregivers find it easy to forget about their own needs, which is why caregivers often experience high stress levels, depression and other health problems.

Don't neglect exercise, healthy eating and sleep. And take time for activities you enjoy. You'll need to keep up your energy and stay well to care for others.

  • Understand caregiving's costs. You might find yourself taking time off work, cutting back on hours, passing up promotions and paying for things like your loved one's groceries and prescriptions. Try to calculate these costs when doing family budgeting.

     
  • See if your workplace is accommodating. Your employer might be fine with you adjusting your schedule or working from home some days to meet caregiving responsibilities. If you need more time off, find out if the Family and Medical Leave Act covers your workplace. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year for caregiving duties.

     
  • Give yourself a break. Sometimes caregivers feel guilty about taking time to have fun. Find ways to reduce your stress and enjoy yourself. Many caregivers turn to yoga or meditation, or arrange a weekly movie outing with friends. Think about what activities you find relaxing or energizing and put them on your to-do list.

Legal News: Parent & Child (Custody - Service of Process)

Lawyers Weekly, "This Week's Decisions" (12/23/19)

Where a Probate & Family Court judge transferred sole legal and physical custody of a child from the mother to the father, that ruling should be reversed because the service of process on the mother did not conform to the requirements of due process.

"The parties, who were never married to each other, were living in Massachusetts when their child was born. It appears from the record that the parties are Brazilian nationals and that the mother was an undocumented alien at that time. In January 2011, a custody judgment entered (incorporating the parties' stipulation) granting the mother primary physical custody, and requiring her to obtain written permission from the father before traveling outside of the United States with the child. On October 27, 2011, the mother and the child moved to Brazil, allegedly with the father's oral permission. However, on March 5, 2012, the father filed a complaint for modificaiton in the Probate and Family Court seeking sole physical custody on the basis that the mother had removed the child to Brazil without the court's permission. The father had the complaint served at the mother's former address in Leominster, despite knowing that she had moved to Brazil. The mother never answered the father's complaint. On June 11, 2012, the father and his counsel appeared before a judge of the Probate and Family Court for a pretrial conference on the father's modification complaint. The mother was not present at the pretrial conference, and no attorney appeared on her behalf. In his pretrial memorandum, the father indicated that the mother currently lived in Brazeil and her 'last known address' was her former Leominster residence. The father alleged that the mother had removed the child from Massachusetts 'without notice' to him. The certificate of service accomplanying the father's pretrial memorandum indicated that it had been served 'upon the attorney of record for each (other) party in hand on June 1, 2012,' but no attorney had appeared on the mother's behalf.

"As noted, on June 27, 2012, the judge issued the modification judgment transferring sole physical and legal custody of the child to the father. ...

"On April 7, 2018, the mother returned to the United States with the child, having been granted humanitarian parole while she pursued an asylum claim. ...

"...We conclude that the 2012 modification judgment is void. Contrary to the judge's conclusion, the service of process did not conform to the requirements of due process of law. ...As the mother was not properly served and did not receive actual notice of the modification complaint before the judgment, that judgment is void. ..."

Legal News: (Domestic Relations): Jurisdiction - Residency

(Lawyers Weekly Issue, "This Week's Decisions" 12/2/19)

Where a Probate & Family Court judge dismissed a complaint for divorce due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a remand is necessary for a determination of whether the plaintiff wife maintained in an actual, continuous residence in the commonwealth for 12 consecutive months immediately prior to the commencement of the divorce action.

"Where parties for a divorce action have never lived together as spouses in Massachusetts, a divorce may not be adjudged unless the plaintiff has satisfied either (1) the 'one-year residency requirement' under G.L.c. 208, S5 (S5); or (2) the 'alternative jurisdictional requirements' of S5, by proving that he or she was domiciled in Massachusetts at the commencement of the divorce action and the 'cause' for divorce occurred within Massachusetts. Caffyn v. Caffyn, 441 Mass. 487, 487-488 (2004). ...

In Caffyn, the Supreme Judicial Court was faced with the 'question whether a plaintiff in a divorce action who has not complied with the one-year residency requirement... may, neverless, satisfy the alternative jurisdictional requirements of S5, by ...claiming that the 'cause' for the divorce, namely 'an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage' under G.L.c. 208, S1B, occurred in Massachusetts.' ...Here, we are faced with the opposite question: whether a plaintiff, who concedes she has not met the 'alternative jurisdictional requirements' of S5, as the 'cause' for divorce did not occur in Massachusetts, may, nevertheless, satisfy the 'one-year residency requirement' of S5 by claiming to be a Massachetts resident while working abroad.

"This appear arises out of a divorce action commenced in the Probate and Family Court by Rhitu Siddharth Rose (wife), a citizen of both Canada and the United States who grew up in Massachusetts, against Alexander Stephane Gerard Rose (husband), a French citizen. The parties both of whom are international officers for the United Nations (UN), are assigned in missions all over the world. At both the time the wife filed her complaint for divorce in Massachusetts and the time that the cuase for divorce occurred, both parties were working abroad on separate UN missions. On November 29, 2017, following a nonevidentiary hearing, a judge of the Probate and Family Court dismissed the wife's complaint for divorce due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding, among other things, that the wife failed to meet the one-year residency requirement of S5. The wife appeals from the dismissal of her complaint, asserting that her temporary work abroad did not change her ongoing status as a Massachusetts resident.

"We hold that the one-year residency requirement of S5 entails an actual, continuous residence in the Commonwealth for twelve consecutive months immediately prior to the commencement of a divorce action, although certain temporary absences from the Commonwealth will not affect the continuity of a plaintiff's residence. The determination of whether a plaintiff has maintained an actual, continuous residence in the Commonwealth for purposes of satisfying the one-year residency requirement is a question of fact to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Because the judge in this case did not have the benefit of our decision here, and no evidentiary hearing was held below, we vacate the judgement of dismissal and remand the matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

Legal News: Legislature should advance caregiver affidavit bill

(Opinion found in Lawyers Weekly 12/2/19)

A parent or guardian of minor children currently has the ability to use a "caregiver affidavit" to designate a person as a temporary caregiver in the parent's absence, without the need for a court order pursuant to G.L.c. 201F, SS1-6.

Parents who are aware of this option generally use it to provide a live-in caregiver with the authority to make decisions about a child's health care or education while they are away.

But while the concept of the caregiver affidavit is valuable, its usefulness is limited under existing law. Currently, a caregiver affidavit goes into effect as soon as it is signed and expires after two years, and the authority given is limited to health care and educational decisions. The law also appears to require that the appointed person already be residing in the home with the child.

That approach is helpful for planned absence sin situations in which the child already has a live-in caregiver such as a nanny, but it does not provide coverage when a parent's absence is unplanned - like for emergency treatment to address substance use or mental health problems, or for arrest, incarceration, detention or deportation.

(to be continued on January 3, 2020)

Legal News: Wills and trusts (Remainder interest - Life tenants)

(copied from This week's decisions in Lawyers weekly dated 12/16/19)

Where (1) a 1956 will devised real property to various family members as life tenants and, after their deaths, to the testator's grandchildren and (2) one of the grandchildren died intestate in 2008 while some of the life tenants established by her grandfather's will were still alive, the grandchild was granted a vested interest in the properties when her grandfather died, as such vesting was not contingent on her surviving the life tenants.

Reversed.

"When he died in 1956, Andrew Dell'Olio owned two adjacent, triple decker residences in Cambridge. His will devised the properties to various family members as life tenants, and, after their deaths, to his grandchildren. The dispute before us concerns one of those grandchildren, Emily Dell'Olio (Emily), who died intestate in 2008. At that time, some of the life tenants established by her grandfather's will were still alive. The question raised by this appeal is whether Emily's interest in the properties had vested by the time she died, in which case her interest would devolve to her heirs at law and be subject to claims brought by her creditors. Asserting that such vesting had occurred was the Massachusetts Office of Medicaid (MassHealth), which sought reimbursement pursuant to G.L.c. 118E, S31, for significant medical expenses it had incurred on Emily's behalf. The six surviving grandchildren maintained that Emily's interest in the property instead was contingent on her surviving the life tenants, and thus was extinguished upon her predeceasing them. On cross motions for summary judgment, a Probate and Family Court judge ruled in favor of the surviving grandchidren and awarded them each an undivided one-sixth interest in the properties...

"This case presents a recurring issue: Do remainder interests created by a will vest when the testator dies, or do they remain contingent on the holders of those interests surviving the life tenants?...

"...Emily was eight years old when her grandfather died. The presumption that he intended his living granddaughter's interest in the properties to vest upon his death therefore lies at its most potent...

"...To be sure, the will does appear to reflect the grandfather's desire to keep the adjacent properties available as a family homestead for his wife, his children and their spouses, and his grandchildren. However, it hardly follows that he therefore must have intended to deprive a grandchild's heirs of an interest in the properties should that grandchild predecease the life tenants. Indeed, had Emily had children, the surviving grandchildren's interpretation would disinherit any such children, a result that seems inconsistent with the grandfather's intent of creating a family homestead to be shared by his descendants...

"In sum, we conclude that on the undisputed facts, the surviving grandchildren have not made a showing sufficient to overcome the strong presumption that Emily was granted a vested interest in the properties when her grandfather died. We therefore reverse the judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

 

5 Steps for Long Distance Care Giving

Caring for a loved one or parent can be really difficult, but that difficulty can be exacerbated when the loved one or parent lives far away.

Recent studies show that 23% of American adults are caring for an older family member or loved one that lives at least one hour away from them.
 
Providing adequate care for someone can be stressful from a distance, but if moving closer to that loved one isn’t possible, there are a few steps that you can take to make long-distance caretaking a little bit easier:

Step 1: Establish open communication.
When you visit with your loved one, be sure to meet with the people that are involved in your family member’s daily life such as their physician, home care assistant, therapist, or others. It is important to get to know them and let them know you want to communicate with them often.

Step 2: Make observation a top priority.
Does it seem as if your loved one is avoiding answer certain questions? Have they stopped participating in activities that they used to enjoy? Do they forget important dates, or do they seem unaware of current events? These could be warning signs that your loved one needs help around the house, or more help if they already have assistance.

Step 3: Be prepared.
Make a list of all of your loved one’s medical issues, medical history, and medications. Include the names of their doctors and any legal documents that you may need in case you have to access them from a distance for an emergency.

Step 4: Spend quality time with them during your visits.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your caretaker responsibilities during a visit. Be sure that you set aside time with your family member to enjoy activities that aren’t directly related to their care. Go see a movie, visit other family members, enjoy a game of bingo, or simply go for a relaxing walk together.

Step 5: Befriend their friends and neighbors.
Spend time getting to know their neighbors and friends and try to identify one or two of them that seem trustworthy enough to check in on your family member and give you an occasional update. Their insight can prove to be invaluable.

Being a long-distance caregiver is never easy, but with the above tips it can be both enjoyable and rewarding for you and your loved one.

Please call Alex for all your Probate needs today. Be prepared. Ask for your free one hour consultation. 508-660-0331.
 

Office News: 5 Myths Regarding Assisted Living

For many people, the idea of assisted living is not something they want to think about. However, there are a lot of myths out there about this type of senior housing.

Here we look at five common myths and explain the truth about what you need to know about assisted living:

Myth #1: There is no freedom in assisted living. 

Truth: People mistakenly believe that by living in assisted living you have to give up your freedom, but that isn’t true. The truth is that assisted living residents receive just enough assistance to safely stay independent. This may mean bathing assistance or medication reminders, but residents are free to do as they please and plan their own days.

Myth #2: There is no privacy in assisted living. 

Truth: Contrary to many rumors, you won’t have to forfeit your privacy in an assisted living community. Most adults have their own suite or apartment and you can spend as much, or little, time with friends and residents as you choose.

Myth #3: Assisted living is too expensive. 

Truth: If you think that assisted living is unaffordable, you may be surprised to find out that the fees include not just the cost of your living space, but utilities, cable, laundry, housekeeping, wellness programs, meals, transportation and more. This may make the fee seem much more reasonable. 

Myth #4: There's nothing to do in assisted living.

Truth: There is often a variety of activities available for residents to participate in, but you are not required to participate in them. Activities may include arts and crafts, movie nights, yoga, swimming, religious services, and more.

Myth #5: My furry friends are not allowed.

Truth: Many assisted living facilities welcome your pet. They know that these furry friends are part of the family and an adult may not be willing to move unless their pet can come too.

Assisted living offers a variety of options that you or your loved one may not have thought of before. To find out more about the resources in your area, reach out to an assisted living community directly or contact your local aging agency.