Hawley attorney provides overview of elder law

  • Attorney Hussain Hamdan speaks at the Charlemont Federated Church on Tuesday about elder law. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Charlemont and Hawley residents listen to attorney Hussain Hamdan’s talk on elder law at the Charlemont Federated Church on Tuesday STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Charlemont and Hawley residents listen to attorney Hussain Hamdan’s talk on elder law at the Charlemont Federated Church on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer
Published: 9/8/2022 5:01:44 PM
Modified: 9/8/2022 4:57:58 PM

CHARLEMONT — Attorney Hussain Hamdan answered common questions about elder law during a “Pizza and Probate” event sponsored by the Hawley and Charlemont councils of aging on Tuesday.

Speaking with roughly 20 seniors, who dined on pizza donated by Berkshire Pizzeria at the Charlemont Federated Church, Hamdan explained the advice he gave provides a general overview, but does not include specific help for people’s individual cases.

“This talk gives a map with large highways, not small individual roads,” he explained.

Hamdan first explained the basics of wills and probate. Probate refers to the legal process by which the property of a deceased individual is accounted for and distributed after their death.

Wills must have two witnesses sign the document who are non-interested parties — meaning they are not recipients in the will. If the writer of the will wishes to disinherit a child, they must clearly state so in the document. However, a person cannot disinherit a spouse. He recommended not writing handwritten notes or modifications in the will.

Wills are required to be probated within three years of an individual’s death.

“Start sooner rather than later,” Hamdan advised.

Hamdan then went on to discuss life insurance. He explained life insurance is good to pick up early in life, as it can become costly or people can be uninsurable later in life.

Life insurance does not go through probate, and the beneficiary gets directly paid the amount that is insured upon the death of their loved one.

“Life insurance is a good thing to have,” Hamdan said. “It can cover a lot of expenses like estate taxes.”

Estate taxes, also known as death taxes, only occur during probate when a person passes an asset threshold. When former President Donald Trump instituted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, he increased the asset threshold from $5.5 million to $11 million for individuals. This increase will expire in 2025, unless the law is made permanent.

For Massachusetts, estate taxes begin when an individual has $1 million in assets. Hamdan warned that this is a low threshold that should be accounted for because people with small businesses often qualify for estate taxes. People who own machinery or buildings for their business often possess assets above $1 million even though their profits can be much lower.

Along with estate taxes comes gift taxes. Non-exempt gifts (gifts that are above $16,000 per individual) made during someone’s lifetime will count toward the $1 million estate tax threshold, and can be subject to estate taxes if they meet the threshold.

Along with estates that are dealt with posthumously, Hamdan discussed Medicare for local seniors, or MassHealth as it is called in Massachusetts. The program is set up for the elderly to pay for care later in life.

He explained people often run into financial trouble because elder care can be extremely expensive and can quickly deplete people’s estates. There are many cases where MassHealth takes people’s homes to pay for long-term stays in nursing homes, according to Hamdan. He explained one way to avoid this is to fill out a form saying your nursing home stay is intended to be temporary.

Along with MassHealth, Hamdan spoke about Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST). These forms are similar to Do Not Resuscitate forms (DNRs), but can have other specific instructions for care when someone is incapacitated. He recommended people complete these forms to have the most control over their care.

“Estate planning is important and often an overlooked realm,” Hamdan said.

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.


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