Social Security Statements Are Available Online (and Only Online)

Social Security stopped mailing out annual Statements starting in 2011.  You can no  longer request a copy by mail or by telephone and they even disabled the on-line request for a copy to be mailed.   Although it is a legally mandated function of this department, they used an “emergency” ruling that allows them to stop fulfilling this obligation if it could potentially bankrupt the organization.

You can obtain this information online and get immediate access to your Statement, including earning history, estimated benefits amounts and eligibility information and it is easy.   To sign up, go to the Social Security web site;  and on the left hand menu go to Get Your Social Security Statement.   In order to register you will be required to enter your personal information, full name, Social Security number, and date of birth, mailing address and phone number and a working email address.  Social Security uses Experian to verify your personal data so be prepared to answer some questions to verify your identity.

This is the same type of account that people use who are already receiving benefits and you will need this to account you’ve set up to later set up your own Medicare, Retirement or Disability benefits.   Make sure you keep the login information in a safe and secure location.

Declarations of Homestead Filed Before March 16, 2011 by Trusts Are Legally Ineffective

Before the new Massachusetts homestead law took effect on March 16, 2011, it did not appear that a trust could file a valid Declaration of Homestead.  The highest court in Massachusetts has now confirmed that point in a February 16, 2012 ruling.

None of my clients ever tried to have a trust file a Declaration of Homestead under the March 16, 2011 law, but if any of you had done so with another lawyer,  you need a new one under the current law.

For more information see my post at my Massachusetts Estate Planning, Probate and Elder Law blog, entitled Supreme Judicial Court Rules That Trusts Were Ineligible for Homestead Protection Under Pre-March 25, 2011 Massachusetts Law

Amount of Assets that the At-Home Spouse Can Keep When Applying for MassHealth Long-Term Care for Spouse in Nursing Home Has Increased to $113,540 for 2012

When one spouse enters a nursing home, the spouse at home (known as the “community spouse”) is allowed to keep certain assets, including the principal residence, the car, and an amount of the other assets known as the “community spouse resource allowance” (sometimes knows as the “spousal resource allowance).  The community spouse resource allowance is indexed to the U.S. Consumer Price Index, and has increased to $113,640 for the calendar year 2012. 

With careful planning, the community spouse can keep much more than the community spouse resource would seem to allow.   For more information on this topic, see my detailed post at my Massachusetts Estate Planning, Probate and Elder Law blog, entitled Protecting Assets and Maximum Income for the Community Spouse When Applying for MassHealth in 2012 to Help Pay for the Unhealthy Spouse’s Nursing Home Bills in Massachusetts

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