May 2023 Newsletter
Legal Lines News
Estate Planning and Elder Law
Important Probate Rules You Should Know
While probate rules can vary by state, there are some important ones that you should be aware of should you need to wind up a loved one’s affairs.
Infusing the Principles of Etiquette Into Your Estate Plan
In honor of May being National Etiquette Month, the following are some ways that you can bolster your estate plan by incorporating the key elements of etiquette.
Have You Outgrown Your Estate Plan?
Estate plans remain effective as long as they accurately reflect a client’s circumstances and current state and federal tax law. However, circumstances often change. So, too, should your estate plan.
Music Makes Life Better!
What is Music Therapy?
Who can benefit from music therapy?
Do I have to be a musician to benefit from music therapy?
Benefits of music engagement at any age.
Benefits of music engagement for older adults.
Featured Speaker – Linda LaSalle, MA MT-BC,
Music Therapist- Board Certified
Linda has been helping improve the lives of elders in the Boston area for over 3 decades using a variety of approaches involving active engagement in singing, movement, drumming and discussion on themes important to her clients. A graduate of Lesley University she has additional training in neurologic music therapy and hospice music therapy, as well as extensive experience in medical and psychiatric settings. She currently serves seniors in private homes and assisted living communities.
COME JOIN US ON
Wednesday, May 24th at 12PM
for a 30-minute webinar (via Zoom) discussion
Hosted by Susana Lannik & Presented by Linda LaSalle, MA MT-BC,
Music Therapist- Board Certified
Stop the Plane!
7 Questions to Answer Before Your Next Trip
COME JOIN US ON
Tuesday, May 16th at 12PM
for a 60-minute webinar (via Zoom)
- Do you have an estate plan?
- Will you be able to access additional funds while traveling?
- Can someone help you with your finances while you are away?
- Have you secured the right types of insurance?
- How will your medical wishes be addressed in an emergency?
- Are you aware of potential tax liabilities?
- What is the plan for your minor children while you are traveling?
A Personal Note From Susana
I have spent a little over a year chairing a program with the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, (NAELA) Massachusetts, formed to help work through the problems our Probate Courts have and to improve the probate progress of a case through these courts.
Most people don’t realize that the Massachusetts Probate Court, where their estate will be accepted and managed following their death, takes jurisdiction over the estate depending upon where you last lived. For example, if you lived on Cape Cod your probate Court is Barnstable. Many of my clients live in Middlesex, Suffolk, Plymouth and Barnstable counties. Some are in Essex County and others are served elsewhere. So, I am filing Probates in all of those courts all the time.
There is a Probate legal Code, but generally it is interpreted as each court sees fit. Needless to say what one does for one court may be rejected by another. There is no uniformity from court to court. It is pretty frustrating for those clients who just “want the job done” and have all parties in agreement about what steps should be taken with their loved ones’ estates. They are still obliged to follow rules that are arcane at best, and reinterpreted by each court at worst. This means that even our best work with Accounts gets bounced back to us multiple times. We just try to work through this as best as we can.
Add to the problem of lack of uniformity, in interpreting the rules, our probate courts also suffer from understaffing. For example, there is one person who reviews all accounts that come in to Middlesex County. And there are thousands of accounts! All of the probate courts are generally understaffed, and what staff they have has in some instances received little or no training since the Pandemic hit.
The other issue with our probate courts for lawyers is that they don’t just handle probate matters. They also hear guardianship and conservatorship cases and divorces. The judges who are appointed may have worked in any one of these areas, in their civilian lives but not in all. So, a great divorce judge may be absolutely clueless about accounts that are filed for probate! Then the judges depend upon “judicial case managers” or clerks who may or may not be experienced and who may or may not be attorneys themselves.
After a year of grappling with the on-going issues in all probate courts, NAELA’s group, has achieved small steps to help the courts improve their services and expedite cases to move through the system. We all have made some headway by participating in “lawyer of the day” programs in some of the courts. This is an effort to help clients who walk off the street and who are not represented by an attorney. But often we are confronted with questions in areas where we don’t specialize. For example, I have not represented a divorce client in many years. I refer those cases to “Domestic Relations” attorneys when they call the office, and to a divorce manual if I am lawyer of the day. An important component of being lawyer of the day is to be in the same room with the clerks that may be managing your probate case. The hope is that we can get “something” done when the clerks realize we are there to help and not to threaten. Sometimes clients come to me wishing to avoid probate. Frankly, I’d like to avoid it too. It is time consuming and expensive. The best way to avoid probate is to have an estate plan utilizing trusts and other vehicles to pass assets to your loved ones outside of the probate process.
So, for those clients of mine who are in the middle of the process, I counsel you to “hang in there.” It will get done. But the best thing anyone can do is stay calm throughout and remember two things: “The seeming impossible just takes a little longer.” And here at Lannik Law, LLC we try to present the court with accounts that are as thorough as they can be. It does little good to “do the minimum” as one client asked me to do. The minimum will definitely be rejected.