College kid coming home
College kid coming home

College kid coming home for the holidays? Do some catch up planning!

College kid coming homeSo after jumping through all of the necessary hoops to get your child who just graduated from high school admitted and settled into college, you may be breathing a sigh of relief now that it is October. By now, hopefully your child is making new friends, busily working on a paper for English 101, and is responsibly enjoying all of the freedoms that college brings to a young person. But there may be some things you forgot to do before they left. One of those things involves estate planning.

Why would a college kid need estate planning? The simple answer is that once your child turns eighteen, they are an adult in the eyes of the law and you, as a parent, no longer have the automatic right to act on their behalf medically and financially. What if your child should have an accident and need medical care? Without a HIPAA authorization and healthcare proxy you will not have the automatic right to your child’s medical information or to make healthcare decisions on their behalf. Similarly, in the absence of a power of attorney, you will not have any access or authority over their financial affairs. Another thing to consider is obtaining a waiver under FERPA to gain access to your child’s college records.

Ultimately, as an adult, it is up to your son or daughter whether to put the above measures into place, but if you neglected to discuss these matters with your child in your fury to help them get situated in college, when they return home for the holidays it may be a good opportunity to address these important considerations.

Contact he North Shore Planning to learn more about planning for a child in college.

Special Needs Trust Glossary

The legal lingo around special needs trusts can be confusing. Fortunately, special needs trusts can be placed into three main categories. The problem is each category may be referred to in multiple ways. As a threshold matter, a “special needs trust,” also known as a “supplemental needs trust,” or a “SNT” (pronounced “snit”) is a type of trust that is designed to provide for a disabled individual, typically in a manner that preserves the individual’s eligibility for government benefits, including Social Security Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and Medicaid (administered by MassHealth in Massachusetts). The three main SNT trust categories are: 1) first-party trusts; 2) third-party trusts; and 3) pooled trusts.

A first-party SNT, also known as a “D4A Trust,” after 42 U.S.C. § 1396p (d) (4) (A) of the United States Code, or a “payback trust,” is a trust that is funded with the disabled beneficiary’s own assets. The trust can be set up by the beneficiary, a parent, a grandparent, a guardian, or a court prior to the beneficiary turning age 65. As the payback trust moniker suggests, these trusts must contain a provision that provides for the government to be paid back from the trust remainder following the death of the beneficiary.

A third-party SNT is a trust that is usually created and funded by a parent, relative, or friend of the disabled beneficiary. These trusts may be created by an “inter vivos trust,” or “living trust.” These trusts may also be created by a will, in which case they are considered “testamentary trusts.” Unlike a first-party SNT, these trusts contain no payback provision.

A pooled trust, also known as D4C trust, after 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(d)(4)(C) of the United States Code, is a trust that is established and administered by a non-profit association. A pooled trust can be a good option where the amount of assets to be contributed toward the disabled beneficiary’s care are relatively small or naming an associational trustee is desirable.

Contact the North Shore Planning to learn more about planning for a child with special needs.

Wills That Don’t Work

Most people who consider estate planning focus on the contents of their wills. While this is an important consideration, many fail to consider that a will only functions with respect to assets that become part of the probate estate. In many cases, assets will pass outside of the probate process. Among other things, this can happen based on:

  • Beneficiary designation forms (e.g., for your IRA and life insurance);
  • How accounts are owned (titled) (e.g., a bank account that is payable on death (POD) to a child, joint accounts, etc.); and
  • Legal documents (e.g., a deed where your house is owned jointly with a spouse or heir).

It is therefore important to coordinate all of the different “transfers” to be sure that your intent is really met. In many situations, it will be beneficial to have a mix of assets that pass through and outside of probate. This is one critical example why merely procuring a will often will not address your real planning needs. A more comprehensive approach is required. Ideally, this should be coordinated not only with your estate planning attorney, but with all of your financial advisors and professionals.


Contact the North Shore Planning to develop a comprehensive plan that considers all of your assets and needs.  


How Often Should I Review My Estate Plan with an Attorney?

review-state-planningA common question after completing an estate plan is how often it should be reviewed to determine if it still meets your needs. Just as you need to change the oil in your car every 5,000 miles for it to keep working, or you need to see a doctor for an annual physical to keep yourself working, so too is it important to speak to an estate planning attorney on a regular basis to ensure that the plan you have put into place still works for you and your loved ones.


As a rule of thumb, you should have your estate plan reviewed at least every two years. This is because laws and administrative procedures at the federal and state levels are constantly changing. For example, within approximately the last two years, there was legislation enacted that significantly changed the federal estate tax and a Massachusetts high court decision that clarified the process of placing a home into an irrevocable trust to preclude it from being counted as an available asset for determining eligibility for MassHealth nursing home benefits. At the writing of this blog, there is pending federal legislation that, if enacted, may significantly change the way proceeds from retirement plans are paid to surviving beneficiaries.


Changes in the law are not the only consideration for determining when to revisit a plan. Life changes require periodic review. Marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, employment changes, retirement, illness, purchasing or selling real estate, and receiving an inheritance are just some of the life changes that may necessitate review of your plan. While a good estate plan will anticipate a number of contingencies, no plan is capable of predicting all of the surprises that life has to offer. That is why it is important to keep your plans up to date.


Contact the North Shore Planning if you think it is time to review your existing plan, or if you need to start the planning process from scratch to protect you and your loved ones.