Personal Injury & Estate Planning Q&A
Answers to Common Personal Injury Questions
It does not cost anything for you to speak with us about a potential case. We will review the facts with you and give you an opinion as to whether you have a case or not.
We will try to settle your case out of Court, but there are some instances when we will have to file suit.
Normally, settlement negotiations can begin at the point when you reach a medical endpoint. Your doctor will determine at what point medical treatment is no longer necessary or will not result in any more improvement.
We will either rely on your doctor to determine whether you have a permanent injury or there are some instances where we will recommend a specialist that will document any permanent injury.
A part of your automobile insurance policy is referred to as Personal Injury Protection benefits, commonly referred to as "PIP" benefits. Most people have this coverage, although you may specifically exclude it from your policy. PIP is available up to $8,000.00. This is a "no fault" benefit. By statute, in Massachusetts, PIP coordinates with your private health insurance carrier and each are required to pay their statutory share. PIP also covers loss wages up to a point. As an example, PIP will pay the first $2,000.00 in medical bills and thereafter your private health carrier should pay and whatever is not covered may be submitted back to "PIP" up to $8,000.00. Loss wages may also be submitted to "PIP", a cap of $8,000.00 exists for loss wages and medical bills.
First, we must wait until you have reached a medical end result. Ordinarily, this can take between six (6) months to a year. We must then determine if you have suffered a permanent injury. There is also a period of time where we may send you to an expert in order to document a permanent injury and/or economic damages, such as future loss wages or loss of earning capacity. We will do everything in our power to move your case along, but some cases take longer than others to resolve. Of course, if we have to place your case into the Court system, we are subject to the rules of the Court.
What will it cost in legal fees?
Basically, the fee that we charge to handle a typical personal injury case is a contingency fee of 33-1/3% of the gross settlement, verdict, or judgment, if the matter is settled prior to the filing of suit. This contingency may increase if we bring suit, and the increase in the percentage will be explained to you at our first meeting.
Answers to Common Estate Planning Questions
The transfer of assets will trigger a period of ineligibility. This disqualification period is computed by dividing the value of the property transferred by a monthly amount established by the government to arrive at the period of ineligibility. Any transfer of assets (other than to your spouse) allows the government to utilize a 60 month "look-back" period to determine eligibility. Proper advance planning by the use of trusts, spend-down strategies, and the disabled and caretaker child exceptions are available to establish medicaid eligibility.
You should consider the transferring of assets to a Trust for several reasons. However, if assets are transferred to a Revocable Trust, since the Grantor still retains control over the assets, the benefits are limited. It is true that transferring assets to a Revocable Trust would avoid the Probate process as described above. However, if assets are transferred to an Irrevocable Trust, so that the assets are no longer available to the Grantor, the assets in the trust will be protected from the nursing home (after 5 years); the assets will avoid probate, the stepped-up basis of the property is available; income tax reporting by you is the same, and the capital gains exclusion may still be available to you as grantor. Although you may not have control over the assets in the trust in the sense that you are not able to access principal, you may receive any income generated by the trust assets, you may borrow against the trust assets, and the assets are protected from creditor claims, assets in an irrevocable trust may not be considered marital property for division in the event of a divorce and assets in an irrevocable trust may not affect qualifying for college financial aid.
In addition to a Will, you should have a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy. In each document you name an agent to act on your behalf, and an alternate, should the first person you name be unable to serve.
Having a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy avoids the need to have a Probate Court appoint a guardian or conservator on your behalf, which is expensive and imposes a duty to file cumbersome annual accountings with the Court.
One document people don't have, but should, is a Declaration of Homestead. Once executed, it is filed with the Massachusetts Registry of Deeds where the property is located. The primary purpose of a Homestead Declaration is to provide protection of your home from creditors. Learn more about Homesteading on our Estate Planning page
What if I don't have a Will?
If you have no Will, the State of Massachusetts will determine who receives your property.
You need a Will to identify who will take your property and when they will receive it. You can specify in your Will when you want a certain person to receive his/her share, and/or who will administer your property, once you are deceased.