Author Archives: David M. Datz, Esq.

Beyond Wills and Trusts: 3 Documents Everyone Needs

When it comes to estate planning, you probably think of wills and trusts. But there are three other estate planning documents you should think about to make your plan complete:

  1. A Living Will
  1. A Healthcare Directive, also called an Advance Directive, Medical or Healthcare Power of Attorney, or Designation of Healthcare Surrogate
  1. A Financial Power of Attorney

Planning for Medical Emergencies with a Living Will and Healthcare Directive

Having the right legal documents in place in case of a medical emergency is essential to providing a family member or trusted friend with guidance and decision-making authority during a difficult time.

A Living Will allows you to state your wishes about the type of medical treatment you do, or don’t, want to receive if you are injured and not expected to recover or become terminally ill.

A Healthcare Directive allows you to choose the trusted family member or friend who will be responsible for making healthcare decisions if, for any reason, you lose the ability to make them for yourself.

Don’t End Up Like Terri Schiavo

One of the well-known cases that highlights the need for a medical emergency plan is that of Terri Schiavo, a 26-year old Florida woman who collapsed and fell into a coma in February of 1990. Mrs. Schiavo didn’t have a Living Will or Healthcare Directive, and as a result was kept alive for 15 years while her husband and parents fought in court over taking her off life support. Finally, in March 2005, a Florida court ordered removal of Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube. She died 13 days later – and the autopsy proved that she had been brain dead since she collapsed 15 years earlier.

While the Schiavo case is an extreme one, it emphasizes the fact that without a medical emergency plan, your family members may be left to guess (or possibly fight) about your medical treatment and end-of-life wishes.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. A Living Will and Healthcare Directive can make your wishes known and legally enforceable. If you haven’t reviewed your healthcare documents in the last year, now is the time to make sure it reflects your current wishes. Call us today if you have any questions about health care decisions and how to best communicate them to your loved ones.

Planning for Property Management with a Financial Power of Attorney

A Financial Power of Attorney allows you to select a trusted family member or friend who will be responsible for managing your money and other property if you become mentally incompetent. Without this document, bank and investment accounts held in your name will become inaccessible, IRA distributions can’t be requested, bills won’t get paid, tax returns won’t be filed, and property can’t be bought or sold. Instead, a loved one may be forced into court to be appointed as the legal guardian, and a judge will oversee the guardian’s every move. A Financial Power of Attorney can provide authority to handle these issues without the court’s involvement.

Caution:  Financial Powers of Attorney Can Become Obsolete

Many Financial Powers of Attorney can be “obsolete” in as short as one year, because many institutions don’t want to rely on stale documents. Depending on your circumstances, a stale, obsolete power of attorney may not be able to help you and your family with:

  • Insurance contracts – life, disability, long term care, property and casualty.
  • Annuity contracts.
  • Retirement plans – pension, profit-sharing and stock bonus plans, IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s.
  • Online financial accounts for banking and investments.
  • Online personal accounts such as email, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
  • Elder care and special needs planning.

If it’s been more than a year or two since you’ve signed your power of attorney, it might be time for a fresh one. Call us – we can help make sure you and your family are fully protected.

A Good Estate Plan Needs Up to Date “Ancillary” Documents

 
In the estate planning community, Living Wills, Healthcare Directives and Powers of Attorney are called “ancillary” documents. But don’t be fooled by the name – these documents are essential and should be updated as lives, finances, and laws change. Call us today with your questions, we’re always here to help.

Now is a great time to refinance, but is now a great time for you?

With spring upon us as Massachusetts emerges from one of the mildest winters in recent years, I have thought about how great the incentive has been the last several months to get up early and out onto the streets of Boston for a morning run.  Similarly, when the question comes up whether to refinance in today’s real estate market, the incentive to do so is greater than it has been in years with mortgage rates at historic lows.

But, unlike the decision of whether to step out for a jog on a mild, albeit chilly, winter morning or sleep in an extra hour, the decision to refinance requires that you take a close look at – and evaluate – your goals and circumstances, the terms of your current loan, and – if refinancing looks possible – find the best lender for your situation.

For example, a friend of mine called me the other day and asked, “David, what’s all this chatter about refinancing now?  I just did it a couple of years ago.  Should I refinance again?”  We talked for a bit about the particulars of his loan for his property in the South End of Boston, and quickly came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t really benefit from a refinance at this time.  He already had a good, low rate fixed for 30 years.  I didn’t think he could get a lower rate that would be worth the closing costs to refinance.

However, when he mentioned his second home in Provincetown, refinancing that home made perfect sense given the particulars of his current loan on the property.

His current mortgage on his second home happened to be a 5 year ARM at a rate higher than current 30 year fixed rates.  Given he has no intention of selling his property in Provincetown for many years, he would benefit from refinancing with a lower interest rate fixed for 30 years.

Though interest rates are low now, and it DOES make sense for many people to refinance and possibly lock-in with a long-term fixed interest rate, there are additional variables you need to be aware of.

Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s Today Show, suggests you should consider refinancing if:

  1. Your interest rate is about 0.75 -1% above current rates.
  2. Your credit score is higher than 720.  A good number, but I think as long as you don’t have any late payments on your current loan, we may be able to find you a lender that can accept a lower score if you’re willing to pay a slightly higher rate.
  3. You have greater than 20% equity in your property.  Although this definitely helps, don’t think this will shut you out from getting approved, especially if your property is worth more than a 500K and located in Boston or Provincetown.

Ms. Chatzky also suggests it is a good time to lock in these rates with a long-term fixed rate mortgage rather than going with adjustable rate loans.

While I generally agree with Ms. Chatzky’s suggestions, the decision to refinance – and whether to go with a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage – ultimately depends on your goals and circumstances.

Given all these variables, some lenders are better for different people.  As real estate attorneys, my team and I work with many lenders on a daily basis.  We know the requirements of each lender.  And we help our clients find the best fit without needing to contact the lender themselves.

So if you’re thinking about whether now is the time to refinance a property you own, and you want to bounce some ideas around, email me at david@datzlawoffices.com or call me at 617-357-9333, and let’s talk about your options and whether the time is right for you.

David M. Datz

Use it or Lose It. Estate Planning Strategies Now! by David M. Datz, Esq.

GiftingI was on Jetblue this morning on my way home from a few days visiting my partner Jim’s mom.  This very outgoing ‘snowbird’ who splits her time between Boca and Boston struck up a conversation with us.  We eventually got to the ‘What do you do for a living” question and after ‘real estate’ and ‘estate planning’ law came out, these became the subjects of conversation for the duration of the flight.  Like many seniors she was concerned about preserving as much of her wealth as possible for her children and also having enough income to live the way she likes to live for the rest of her life. 

She wants her kids to benefit from her lifetime of savvy investments but is fearful that giving away her assets too early may cause her to have to depend on her kids.  She was obviously a very independent woman who is currently on her own. 

I gave her a short education on her ability to ‘gift’ up to 5 million dollars in assets that exceed the annual limit in your lifetime, before you start owing the gift tax  though the use of some relatively simple planning strategies.  Up to 5 million and no Gift tax?  Correct.

Although she was proud that she had done some planning, she was not familiar with the ‘gift’ that congress has given to all of us for the balance of the next two years.  I suggested that she call her estate planning attorney and inquire as to what her current options may be to obtain her goals.    

It is time to explore the benefits of gift planning before the expiration of this ‘two year window,’ i.e. before the expiration of the 2010 Tax Relief Act, which is scheduled to end on December 31, 2012.  Son, daughter, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner; you can benefit any or all of them and possibly reduce or eliminate taxes to your estate.  You can give what you have to whom you want, and possibly not have taxes deplete your estate by missing this planning opportunity. 

GRATs, Grantor Trusts and Gifting, are buzzwords for the estate tax planning strategies that we are exploring with our clients NOW.  Unless congress passes a new tax bill, this $5 million dollar planning strategy opportunity will soon be history. We are currently advising our clients to whom these planning strategies may be beneficial to ‘use it or lose it.’  Will congress pass a new tax bill changing or extending these limits?  Will I lose 10 pounds by summer?  Who knows?  But I am planning my weight loss strategy now.  Why take the chance?  To explore whether these strategies may be right for your estate, give me a call or send me an email.   It would be my pleasure to have taken a part of preserving your legacy.  david@datzlawoffices.com

IT’S YOUR CHOICE. Choose us to close your refinance loan.

As you probably know, refinance mortgage rates have never been this low before in the history of the United States housing market. Many of our clients are now considering refinancing.

What you may not know is that YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE the attorney who closes your refinance loan with most lenders. 
 
If you don’t choose an attorney, your lender will choose one for you.
 
Remember that along with the potential benefits to refinancing, there are also costs. Your home may be your most valuable financial asset, so you want to be careful when choosing a lender or broker and specific mortgage terms.

Let us reward your loyalty, streamline the process and greatly reduce your frustration.

Here are the benefits of working with us again:

  • Pay less. Some lenders use their own settlement companies that could cost you almost double.
  • Lender’s Title Insurance Policy: 40 % discount (reissue rate!).
  • Less work = Less frustration. We already have your title insurance policy and your property information.
  • Less Delay. We have previously searched your property’s records to ensure that you are the rightful owner and have checked for liens. If there is a prior title issue that arises, we have the backup title information to resolve the problem. 
  • We will accommodate you. With three convenient locations in the South End, Back Bay and Provincetown, where we do the closing IS YOUR CHOICE.  
  • YOU KNOW US and the high level of quality service we provide.
  • WE KNOW YOU. If you haven’t already chosen a lender we can also help you find the best refinance deal with the lender that is right for you.

So, when you’re asked to select a qualified attorney, closing agent, or title company, choose David Marshall Datz, P.C. We sincerely appreciate your business and thank you for your continued loyalty.

Give us a call at 617-357-9333 or by email at info@datzlawoffices.com.

We look forward to working with you again soon.

Thank you,

David