In This Issue
Message from the Partners
Five Facts About Prenuptial Agreements
Tips to Evaluate Your Social Security Options Online
Protecting the Home
Whats New?
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Samuel Sayward & Baler 
 858 Washington Street, Suite 202 
Dedham, MA 02026

Phone: (781) 461-1020 
Fax: (781) 461-0916
News from  
Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC

July 2015

Attorneys Suzanne Sayward, Maria Baler, and Steven Joshua Samuel

Message from the Partners


Dear Clients and Friends,


We hope you are enjoying the dog days of summer! In this issue, Attorney Baler writes about summer as it pertains to wedding season and what couples need to know about protecting their assets should their marriage end in divorce. While such a notion is the last thing couples and their families want to think about as the big day approaches, it's important to consider a prenuptial agreement and understand what types of protection it offers. Attorney Baler's article, which was published in the Dedham Transcript in June, offers five important facts to know about prenuptial agreements.


In this issue's financial section, guest columnist Erin Larney, Director of Marketing at Samuel Financial LLC, discusses tips on how to evaluate Social Security options online. This is particularly helpful for those who are nearing retirement and want to know what benefits they will receive.  Learning to navigate the Social Security Administration's website provides the opportunity to review earnings records and access a wide range of important information to help plan ahead for retirement. 


Attorney Sayward writes about protecting the home for heirs.  One of the biggest impediments to achieving this goal is the cost of long-term care, which can severely impact the home's equity. And while there are protection strategies -- such as transferring the property to children with the parents retaining a life estate, or transferring the property to an irrevocable trust-- other risks can arise with each situation. Attorney Sayward discusses these viable options and the challenges to be aware of with each strategy.


In our What's New section, you'll see we have made some important and exciting updates for the firm! We also report on Attorney Pamela Greenfield's recent contribution to the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.  Attorney Greenfield moderated the panel presenting at the Chapter's June dinner meeting, which focused on  less common but important issues that estate planning and elder law attorneys should consider when advising clients.  


Thank you for reading another issue of News from SSB. If you have an idea for a topic you would like us to address in a future issue, please contact our office. We also welcome new subscribers so please feel free to send us email addresses or forward this newsletter to friends and family members!


Enjoy the rest of the summer!


Steven Joshua Samuel

Suzanne R. Sayward

Maria C. Baler 



Five Facts about Prenuptial Agreements


By Attorney Maria C. Baler


It's summer, love is in the air, and weddings abound. For an estate planning attorney, these events conjure up unromantic thoughts of prenuptial agreements. A prenuptial, or premarital, agreement is a contract between two people who are planning to marry, by which they agree in advance to a division of their assets in the event of divorce or death. 


Whenever clients express concern about protecting assets their child may inherit if the child's marriage ends in divorce, the first question I ask is whether a prenuptial agreement was signed prior to marriage. These agreements are the single best way to protect inherited assets in the event of divorce. 


Here are five facts to know about prenuptial agreements:


1. If You Brought It You Keep It.   A basic prenuptial agreement provides that in the event of divorce, each party to the agreement will leave the marriage with the assets that each brought into the union or inherited during the marriage.  If a party owns an interest in a family business or co-owns property with other individuals, the agreement will stipulate that those interests are not subject to division between the parties in the event of divorce.  This prevents marital discord from impacting those assets and the other owners.  The agreement will also address the division of any jointly held assets in the event of divorce.


2. Follow the Rules.  A prenuptial agreement must be created with an eye towards whether the agreement will be enforceable if the parties divorce.  Understandably, the parties to a prenuptial agreement do not anticipate divorce occurring, and may not approach the creation of the agreement with the seriousness which is warranted. This is especially true if the agreement is being negotiated in the midst of wedding planning and the couple is under pressure from their parents to sign the agreement.  However, Massachusetts courts have established very clear parameters that must be followed for a premarital agreement to be enforceable if and when the time comes for the agreement to do what it was created to do - protect assets.


3. Separate Counsel Essential.  When creating and negotiating a prenuptial agreement, it is mandatory that both parties have their own attorneys.  To many happy couples, it seems like a waste of time and money to meet and confer with separate lawyers.  However, this ensures each party understands how the terms of the agreement benefit and obligate them, and ensures the agreement will be enforceable in the future.  In order to be enforceable, Massachusetts courts have held that a prenuptial agreement must be fair both at the time the agreement is signed and at the time it is sought to be enforced.  Separate counsel also serves to ensure that one party is not overreaching when the agreement is created, which would jeopardize enforceability down the road.


4. Disclosure of Assets.  Each party to a prenuptial agreement must fully disclose his or her assets, including anticipated inheritances.  The assets of each party are typically detailed on schedules to the agreement.  Full and complete disclosure of assets is also essential to the agreement's enforceability.  If there are particular assets that are important to protect, such as a family business or vacation property, the agreement can be tailored to those particular assets, which the parties may find more palatable.


5. Timing is Everything.   In order to be enforceable, prenuptial agreements must be entered into freely by each party, without coercion or influence from the other party or outside influences.  For this reason, courts have found that the agreement must be entered into far enough in advance of the wedding that neither party feels coerced into signing.  This can be one of the most difficult aspects of creating a valid agreement, as the parties are often busy with pre-wedding planning, which takes up a great deal of their time.  This is a good reason to get the agreement out of the way early on in the planning process, so that the months immediately before the wedding can be spent focusing on the big day.


There is no doubt that discussions about prenuptial agreements are difficult and can create tension between a parent and child, between a parent and the child's future spouse, and between the happy couple themselves.  However, the value of these agreements in protecting family assets is significant.  Depending on the wealth or potential inheritance each party to the agreement will bring to the marriage, a prenuptial agreement may be a suggestion that both parties, and their parents, can get behind.  


Tips to Evaluate Your Social Security Options Online


By Erin Larney, Director of Marketing at Samuel Financial LLC



Social Security's website ( has made great strides in communicating the overwhelming options when it comes time to choose your Social Security strategy. Information is located in two places: on its public website and through a private portal accessible by personal login. It's worth reviewing the website well in advance of age 65 as it will allow you to consider different options prior to making strategy decisions. Below are a few tips to help you navigate through the website as you make benefit decisions that are right for you.


Your Work History


Social Security has your earning history available on the private side of the website; however, you'll want to review it for accuracy. When logging into the website, it displays your earnings records from when you were first employed. Any changes you make will need to take place prior to filing for benefits. Often there are gaps in employment income where an employer may have sent incorrect earnings information to the Social Security office -- or none at all! Given that Social Security takes into account your top 35 years of earnings to calculate your benefit you'll want to verify the accuracy of that information. If it's incorrect, Social Security may allow you to provide proof of your earnings with past tax returns. You can also request that the Social Security office review its documentation for errors.


Your earnings records can be found when looking at the home page through the private portal and by clicking on the "Earnings Record" tab at the top of the page.


Benefits at Different Ages


When logging into Social Security's website, your personal retirement, disability, family, and survivor benefits are outlined. If you have enough credits to qualify for benefits, the retirement section provides an overview of what you would receive at:


a) your early retirement age (age 62),
b) your full retirement age (between ages 66-67), and

c) age 70


This information is displayed on the "Estimated Benefits" tab located on the home page.

The public site also offers calculators to assist in planning your future. These calculators include a Retirement Estimator (estimates monthly benefits), Life Expectancy Calculator, Quick Benefits Calculator (displayed in today's and future dollars), and Full Retirement Age Calculator.


Rules for a Variety of Situations


On the public site, you can find detailed information on a specific situation by choosing "Benefits" on the top bar. Here you can learn detailed information about the kind of benefits offered. These include benefits based on a spouse's or former spouse's work record,  survivor benefits for widows and widowers, benefits for children with parents who are disabled, retired, or deceased, coordination with disability benefits, and same sex-marriages.


Even though the Social Security Administration has many resources available to help you make the right choices, they do not provide guidance on everything. This can lead people to make costly decisions. The Social Security Administration does not help you develop a strategy for taking your benefits so you receive the maximum dollar amount (there is third party software available for this). For example, when filing for spousal benefits before full retirement age, Social Security considers you to be applying for both spousal and your own retirement benefits. You will receive the larger of the two benefits, and this cannot be changed -- even after full retirement age. This will cause you to lose the option to switch to your own retirement benefits after full retirement age, which may at that time be higher than the spousal benefit. Prior to making important financial decisions, visit or the Social Security office and consider consulting a trusted financial professional during or near retirement.


Samuel Financial LLC is located at 858 Washington Street, Dedham, MA 02026 and can be reached at 781.461.6886.  Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, member FINRA/SIPC, a registered investment adviser. Fixed Insurance products and services offered through CES Insurance Agency.

Protecting the Home


By Attorney Suzanne R. Sayward


For many people, their home is their most valuable asset and they want to protect that value and pass it on to their children at death.  One of the biggest threats to that goal is long-term care costs that can diminish, or even eliminate, the equity in the home.  Common planning vehicles for protecting the home against spend down for long-term care costs include transferring the property to children with the parents retaining a life estate, or transferring the property to an irrevocable trust. 


While these can be good options for protecting the home, they have consequences that some people may find unacceptable.  For example, if ownership of the home is transferred to children, the children's creditors may place a lien against the home.  Credit issues may arise if a child gets divorced, fails to pay credit card bills, has a failed business, incurs a lien for unpaid taxes, or is sued.  In general, so long as the parents retain a life estate in the property, a child's creditors cannot force a sale of the property to satisfy the debt during the parents' lifetimes.  The creditors must wait until the death of the last parent to collect. 


However, a bankruptcy court recently reached a different and alarming conclusion. The court concluded that the value of the parent's life estate could be reduced to a monetary amount that could be satisfied from the sale of the home.  In that case, the bankruptcy court ordered the sale of the  home while the parent was still alive.  The parent was paid a portion of the sale proceeds equal to the value of the life estate interest.  Since a life estate interest represents only a small fraction of the full value of the property (especially if the life estate holder is elderly), the amount the parent received on the sale was nowhere close to the amount needed to buy a new home.


Parents can reserve certain rights in the life estate deed to reduce the risk that a child's creditor could claim an interest in the property.  However, some elder law attorneys are concerned doing so will cause Medicaid to challenge the effectiveness of the transfer.


Transferring the home to an irrevocable trust is a good way to protect the property from the reach of children's creditors during the parents' lifetimes. However, MassHealth, the agency that administers the Medicaid program in Massachusetts, scrutinizes irrevocable trusts very closely, searching for any opportunity to disregard the trust and treat the home as if it was still owned by the parents.  Applications for Medicaid benefits where property is held by an irrevocable trust are often denied. 


Whether one of these planning options to protect the home is right for you depends upon your particular situation - there is no single right answer for everyone.  If you want to learn more about protecting your home, contact us to schedule a time to meet with one of our attorneys.


What's New?


Coming Soon - a new look for Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC! 


In addition to sprucing up our offices, we have been busy working with EPS Communications of Woburn to update our website, brochures and our letterhead.  We plan to debut Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC's updated look in the next few months -- say tuned!


Attorney Pamela Greenfield hosts MassNAELA panel


On June 11, Attorney Greenfield moderated the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys' dinner meeting.  The program focused on hidden issues for estate planning and elder law attorneys to consider when advising clients.  The panelists covered the impact of divorce, bankruptcy and college planning on a client's estate plan. The presenters discussed everything from who should own a college savings 529 plan to how bankruptcy affects a life estate deed, to whether an inheritance is considered a marital asset in a divorce proceeding.  The program was a great success and provided the attendees with important information about how these less common but important issues affect clients.


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