Partners' Letter
Dear Clients and Friends,
With the holidays just around the corner, we are thinking about how to help our clients better plan for the new year when it comes to estate planning, health care decision-making, and financial matters. This is a perfect time to revisit the plans and documents you have in place for your future and consider whether changes are needed in order to better plan ahead.
Our feature article, published in The Dedham Transcript in July and written by Attorney Sayward, discusses long-term nursing home care. With the high cost of care increasing every year, a big concern for many is how they will pay for long-term care if needed and how to make sure their assets will be protected.  Medicare and other insurance plans cover only a limited amount of long-term care costs.  Medicaid pays the long-term care costs of those who are both medically and financially eligible. Attorney Sayward's article lays out five basic financial eligibility rules for long-term Medicaid.
Attorney Baler writes about a recent Massachusetts case that addresses whether or not a Trust created by a spouse's parent is subject to division in a divorce proceeding. The complicated nature of this case helps emphasize the importance of asset protection in the estate planning context and why a couple should seriously consider entering into a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage.
In his financial article, Attorney Samuel offers a DIY strategy for helping to determine how much you need to save for retirement. While this doesn't take the place of consulting with a financial planner, it's a great way to get a reasonable assessment of where you are now in planning for your financial future. 
This issue marks the six-year anniversary of the SSB Newsletter! We are pleased that our readership is growing and encourage you to send us ideas for future articles. As always, please feel free to send us email addresses or forward this newsletter to friends and family members!
Wishing you a safe and enjoyable holiday season!
Steven Joshua Samuel
Suzanne Sayward
Maria Baler

Five Basic Medicaid Eligibility Rules 
By Attorney Suzanne Sayward
One of the most frequent concerns clients express is the fear that they will lose all of their assets paying for long-term nursing home care.  This is a valid concern.  The cost of long-term care is very high - $10,000 to $14,000 per month in Massachusetts, and there is no easy way to pay for it.  Medicare or other health insurance plans cover only a limited amount of long-term care costs.  
Medicaid, also called MassHealth in Massachusetts, is the state and federally funded program that will pay for long-term nursing home costs for individuals who are both medically and financially eligible.  Here are five basic rules for eligibility for long-term care Medicaid - but beware!  Each rule has exceptions that could apply, depending upon the particular situation.


1. In order to be eligible for long-term care Medicaid benefits, a person cannot  have more than $2,000 of countable assets.    In Massachusetts, countable assets include bank accounts, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, and annuities. The cash value of life insurance policies may be countable, depending upon the face value of the policy.  An individual's primary residence is not a countable asset. This means a person who owns a home will not be required to sell the home in order to be eligible for long-term care Medicaid benefits.  However, this is not as great as it sounds.  The Commonwealth will place a lien against the home of a MassHealth recipient and will collect amounts paid to the nursing home on behalf of the homeowner when the home is sold or after the death of the nursing home resident. 


2. The spouse of a nursing home resident may retain countable assets over and above the $2,000 that the nursing home resident may keep.  When a nursing home resident has a spouse who is living in the community, the spouse is entitled to keep additional countable assets.  The amount the spouse is entitled to keep is called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA).  This year (2015), the CSRA is $119,220. 


3. A person who is eligible for long-term care Medicaid benefits must pay most of his monthly income to the nursing home.  A person who receives Medicaid for long-term nursing home care costs must pay her monthly income to the nursing home.  This includes Social Security, pension income, annuity payments, and net rental income.  A person is permitted to keep enough income to pay for her health insurance premium and a small monthly personal needs allowance ($72.80 in 2015).  

4. The spouse of a nursing home resident may be entitled to keep some of her spouse's income. When the nursing home resident has a spouse who is living in the community, the spouse may be entitled to keep some of the resident's monthly income.  The government recognizes that people living in the community need money to pay their bills.  The Medicaid rules include an "allowance" for the spouse of a nursing home resident.  If the community spouse's income is less than the amount of the allowance, then the income of the nursing home spouse can be retained by the spouse at home rather than be paid to the nursing home (see #3 above).  This is called the Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMNA).  This year (2015), the maximum amount of the MMNA is $2,980.  This means that if the monthly income of the spouse in the community is at least $2,980, she will not be entitled to keep any of her spouse's income (unless she meets one of the exceptions to this rule).


5. Giving away assets will cause a period of ineligibility.  The Medicaid program is intended to provide assistance to those who cannot afford to pay for long-term care costs.  In order to prevent individuals from taking advantage of the program by giving away assets to meet the financial eligibility requirements, there is a five-year look-back period.  The application for long-term care Medicaid benefits requires that the applicant disclose all gifts made within the five-year period preceding the application.  If gifts were made to anyone other than a spouse during those five years, there will be a period of ineligibility imposed.  The length of the ineligibility period will be based on the value of the assets given away. 


There is no penalty for transferring assets between spouses.  However, the ineligibility period will apply even if the non-applicant spouse is the one who gives away assets.  For example, if a wife gives her son $50,000 in January and her husband goes into a nursing home in September, the $50,000 gift will cause the husband to be ineligible for Medicaid benefits for a period of time.  
As noted above, the Medicaid eligibility rules are complex and there are multiple exceptions to just about every rule.   If you have concerns about paying for long-term care, consult with an experienced elder law attorney who can explain how the rules apply to your situation and discuss planning options. 
Attorney Suzanne R. Sayward is certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation, a private organization whose standards for certification are not regulated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  She is a partner with the Dedham firm of Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC.  This article is not intended to provide legal advice or create or imply an attorney-client relationship. No information contained herein is a substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney. For more information visit or call 781/461-1020. 

How Much Retirement Savings is Enough: A One-Hour DIY Self Estimate 
By Steven Joshua Samuel JD, MBA, AIF®
Having an estimate of how much you need for retirement will enable you to make better financial decisions now. Deciding  whether to reduce the amount you save in order to buy that beautiful, bigger home, splurge on a vacation, or how much to contribute to a child's education will all have an impact on  your financial future.  As you get closer to retirement, the impact of earlier splurges is hard to overcome, so estimating that impact when you're deciding whether or not to spend can make a major difference in how well you live in your later years.
You're not alone if you find financial planning for retirement  and "expert" books and articles intimidating and discouraging. Intimidating because the calculations seem beyond the ability of non-experts and discouraging because the amount of savings suggested for a comfortable retirement may seem out of reach. Though getting help from a trusted financial professional may be a good idea in planning for retirement, doing your own rough estimate of what you need is not hard for most people. You are only about an hour away from your estimate if you take the next three steps.
Estimate What your "Must" and " Want" Spending Is Now and What it Will Be in Retirement
Take about a half hour to make a rough estimate of what you are spending now and tweak it for what may be different in retirement. Remember this is a rough estimate. About a half hour of looking at records should allow you to get the information you need. Use  your checking account or other records of what you've spent for a full 12 months to make a list of "must" expenses. These include housing, health care, transportation, basic food and  clothing, insurance (life, home and car), education debt payments, and any other basics of everyday living that are musts for you. Make a separate list of "want" expenses, including travel, entertainment, gifts, savings and other wants.
After you complete your estimates, cross check them against your take home pay and other income. If your total  current "must" and "want" spending for 12 months is less than take home pay, confirm where the difference is going.  If you aren't accumulating about the amount of the difference, recheck your spending lists. If your total current spending is more than your take home pay and you are accumulating credit card or other debt, plan to reduce it.
Next, adjust your "must" and "want" lists for changes during retirement. For example, during retirement you won't be saving for retirement, you won't have the same work-related expenses, and you may not have a mortgage. On the other hand, your health care expenses may increase, along with entertainment and travel. Remember this is a rough estimate and you'll redo it from time to time as you get closer to retirement.
Estimate Social Security Benefits and How Much You'll Need to Withdraw Each Year From Your  Investments
Take about a half hour to gather your Social Security benefit amount as well as income, if any, from other sources (pension, income-producing real estate). Use the official Social Security website ( and your company human resources specialist to get reliable estimates. Now you're ready to estimate how much you'll need to withdraw from your investments as well as what amount of investments you need. For example, if a married couple is close to retirement and has "must" and "want" estimated retirement expenses of $ 75,000 per year before taxes, assuming $ 75,000 is approximately their total income from work,  their Social Security benefits would probably total about $35,000 per year. Unless the couple has other sources of income besides Social Security, they would need to withdraw $40,000 per year from their investments (before taxes).  
Next, multiply $40,000 by 25 to estimate how much total retirement investment savings the couple in our example will need to allow them to  withdraw $40,000 per year and not outlive their investments. That is about $1,000,000.  Why multiply by 25? Financial professionals estimate that in order for your investments to last your lifetime, you will need between $16 and $33 of investments for every dollar you withdraw during retirement. The $16 lower end of this range is for couples who can tolerate the ups and downs of having 60 percent or more of investments in stock, who do not plan to leave a big inheritance, or who are in their late 70s or older. The $33 end of this range is for more conservative people who hope to leave a significant inheritance or for retirees in their early 60s.  For the married couple in our example,  we're multiplying by 25 because it is between 16 and 33 and a good fit for a couple who are not  big risk takers as a result of nearing retirement and also not super conservative because they've learned they must take moderate risks to keep up with inflation.
The couple in our example needs to have about $ 1,000,000 of investments at retirement. If your retirement is 10 or more years in the future, multiply by closer to 33 because inflation will increase the amount of income you will need to withdraw.
How to Use Your Estimate
Knowing whether you are on track to have the retirement you want can help you decide whether you need to change how much you are spending and saving now. You'll have  a better sense of how to decide whether committing to a bigger mortgage or gift to children may or may  not derail your retirement goals.
Congratulations are in order if you can meet your estimated expenses during retirement with the combination of your Social Security benefit and the amount you can withdraw from your investments. If not, what you can do depends on when you plan to retire, how much more you can realistically save until you retire, whether you want and can work during the first years of retirement, and whether you can reduce your expenses. A do it yourself estimate will put you a few steps ahead in understanding your situation. As always,  before making major financial decisions, consult a trusted financial professional.
 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.  

Asset Protection is Not Just for Creditors Anymore

By: Maria C. Baler
The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently decided the case of Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl, a divorce case which addressed the question of whether the husband's interest in a trust created by his father could be considered a marital asset subject to division in the divorce proceeding.  The majority of the Court concluded that the husband's interest in the Trust could be valued and divided, and affirmed the probate court's decision to award the wife a specific dollar amount from the trust.  The facts of this case, specifically the fact that the family used large sums distributed to the husband from the trust to maintain their lifestyle over several years, were cited in support of the court's decision.  The two justices who joined the dissenting opinion, as well as many attorneys, feel this is a controversial decision which disregarded some important terms of the Trust as well as decisions in previous, similar cases. 
This case brings home the importance of asset protection in the estate planning context.  That is, considering whether the money your children will inherit from you will be jeopardized by their lifestyle, spending habits, shaky marriages, or other issues, and what steps can be taken to protect against these threats.  We advise our clients to encourage their children to consider entering into a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage, which is the best way to protect inherited assets from a subsequent divorce.  Building asset protection into trusts involves limiting the involvement of family members as Trustees, and restricting a child's control over and access to trust assets.  Creating an asset protection estate plan is not for everyone.  The factors that go into a determination of whether this is right for your situation include the size of your estate, the ages of your children and the likelihood that a child will encounter the need for asset protection at some point. As with all estate planning, it is vital to review your particular situation with your attorney so that you create a plan that is well thought out and appropriate for your family.  

Beware of IRS Scam!!!!

The lawyers at Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC have heard of two instances in the past month where older individuals were contacted by telephone by a person who says he is calling from the IRS (the scammer even gives a badge number) and that there is an outstanding tax liability from many years ago that must to be paid right away.  The scammer tells the elder to go to the bank and withdraw cash, to then purchase 'cash cards' with the money, and that someone will meet them to collect the cards.  This is a scam!  The IRS will NEVER contact you by telephone if you owe taxes - the IRS will always send you a letter.  The IRS website includes information about this type of scam and also explains the Service's practice. In addition, the November, 2015 edition of Consumer Reports magazine published an excellent article on scams targeting older folks and how to protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim.  We urge you to be very suspicious of anyone who asks you for money, your credit card, bank account information, or your Social Security number over the phone.  

Staff News

Welcome Victoria!
Tori is the newest member of our SSB team and is working here as a legal secretary part time while she attends college.  Tori helps Kenzie answer the phones and greet clients who come to our office, creates all of the client binders and all of the annual reminder letters, and provides overall support for the firm.

Jennifer FINALLY went on her honeymoon!
As some of you may remember, Jennifer got married two years ago and last month finally went on her honeymoon.  Jennifer and her husband Michael had a whirlwind trip, drove 2,000 miles and backpacked 60 miles in just one week! Among their stops were the Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Ocean, Muir Woods, Yosemite National Park (where they took a four hour mule ride to Nevada Falls), Death Valley, Mojave Desert, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, and finally the Rocky Mountains.

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