Guiding elders, special needs persons, and families by offering the experience and care clients need for thoughtful planning and peace of mind.


Norwell pitches zoning changes for Queen Anne’s Corner and Accord Park – Wicked Local

November 26, 2019

Filed under: Community — rec1 @ 3:38 PM

By Audrey Cooney
Posted Nov 21, 2019 at 10:44 AM
Updated at 10:11 AM

Take our poll on what you’d like to see come to the area.

NORWELL — Residents gave feedback on a series of proposed zoning changes meant to bring new kinds of development to Queen Anne’s Plaza and Accord Park at a community forum held Tuesday night.

“We really believe that the community is the experts,” said Josh Eichen, a senior planner with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a planning agency hired by the town.

MAPC was tasked with creating an economic growth plan for the town. The plan was completed in 2018 and recommends several zoning changes at Queen Anne’s Plaza and in Accord Park.

Tuesday’s meeting was a second of three planned community forums to explain and garner resident feedback on the proposed zoning changes before submitting them to the town for approval. About 50 residents gathered at Cushing Memorial Hall for the meeting.

Three zoning districts

Eichen explained during a presentation at the start of the meeting that MAPC is proposing the creation of three zoning sub-districts.

One, at Queen Anne’s Plaza, would be a 40R Smart Growth zoning overlay, a state-wide zoning designation that encourages towns to allow dense residential or mixed-use development in areas with concentrated development that includes high levels of affordable housing.

The second would be along Pond Street in Accord Park and would allow for new retail, restaurants and possibly a hotel in that area.

The third would be farther back in Accord Park and would allow for higher density office buildings. Some areas in Accord Park would allow buildings of up to five stories, opposed to the three stories that are permitted now.

One hypothetical residential development at Queen Anne’s Corner would see the creation of nearly 160 new housing units, with space for 300 new residents, Eichen said. About 20 percent of the housing would be affordable.

Peter Forman, president of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, said MAPC’s plans would go a long way toward growing the local economy.

“You have a real chance to make that (area)… more vibrant, more successful, a little bit of a downtown feel, particularly if you can incorporate a little housing,” he said.

Ellen Allen, chairwoman of the Norwell Board of Selectmen, said the new developments would increase public safety by allowing emergency workers like firefighters to live in town. Norwell also needs more multi-family housing for seniors looking to downsize, and more workforce housing, she said.

“Businesses won’t develop here is the people they want to work here can’t afford to live here,” she said.

After a presentation recapping the first meeting and summarizing the proposed changes, attendees broke out into different groups to go over each one of the three proposed sub-districts in more detail.

MAPC employees, Norwell town officials and residents volunteering to promote the project lead each group, writing down observations and concerns from residents.

Many residents brought up traffic at Queen Anne’s Corner as a major concern.

Eichen said Central Transportation Planning Staff conducted a traffic study of the area and found a few solutions that he called “low-hanging fruit” to easily help alleviate congestion near the intersection. This include reprogramming the timing for the traffic light at Queen Anne’s Corner, extending the striping for turning lanes at that intersection and adding turning lanes on Pond Street for cars turning into Accord Park.

Alexis Levitt, a Norwell resident who attended the meeting, said she thought the proposed changes were a good idea overall. It would be nice, she said, to have a “town commons” of sorts, where residents could gather and mingle.

“I like the idea of updating some of our tired spaces, particularly adding some affordable housing for our seniors in town,” she said

The next public meeting on the proposed zoning changes will be in early January. Then, MAPC will submit zoning language to the town, which will need to get approval from both the planning board and board of selectmen before appearing on the warrant for town meeting in May.

Audrey Cooney can be reached at 781-837-4573.

My Loved One Died.  Do I Need to Probate a Will?

January 15, 2019

Filed under: Estate Planning,Probate — Alexis @ 2:37 PM

When someone dies and has a will, the obvious question is, “What do I do now?”

The best thing to do is to see a lawyer who specializes in estate planning and probate.  You will bring to that meeting everything you can find about the deceased’s assets and finances: deed, mortgage papers, bank statements, brokerage statements, pension papers, etc., and, of course, the will, if the deceased had one.

At that meeting, the attorney can tell you what steps to take next.  You’ll discuss exactly what needs to be done on the home, bank accounts, life insurance policies, etc.  And you may even learn that you don’t need to file a probate with the court!

It turns out that quite often, filing a probate is not necessary.  And it also often turns out that all you need is the one meeting with the attorney and then you can handle the rest on your own.

The bottom line is that when a loved one dies, it’s a good idea to meet with an attorney.  Even if you decide to proceed on your own, you will know that you have a good roadmap.

Paying Your Caregiver Under the Table

September 20, 2018

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Financial,Living at Home — Alexis @ 1:47 PM

Hiring a caregiver is an expense, no question about it.  Some families are lucky enough to be able to find the perfect caregiver among their circle of close family and friends.  When finding a caregiver on their own rather than through an agency, lots of families prefer to pay the caregiver under the table because it’s cheaper than using payroll.  And lots of caregivers prefer direct payments because they make more that way – wouldn’t we all prefer to make more money?

But here’s the problem with this arrangement.  Or more precisely, several problems:

  1. Both the employer and the caregiver are committing tax fraud. You really don’t want to be caught for this.
  2. The caregiver, by not using payroll to pay into her Social Security history, is setting herself up for a lower Social Security payment upon retirement. This will make things a lot harder on her in what are supposed to be her golden years.
  3. The caregiver is not covered by worker’s compensation in the event of injury. That leaves her in a lurch if she gets hurt on the job.  Or, it leaves the family in a lurch, as she can try to sue the employer to recover for her injuries.
  4. The caregiver is not covered by state unemployment benefits when the job ends.

No one wants to pay taxes, and payroll costs add to the employer’s financial commitment and reduce the caregiver’s take-home pay.  But if you run the numbers to see exactly how much the cost changes would be for both the employer and the caregiver, hopefully you will decide that the cost is not as much as you expected, and the protections will be worth it.

As the employer, once you decide to start using payroll, you have options for how to manage that.  If you are an organized person and don’t mind or maybe even enjoy “HR” type of work, you can run payroll on your own and submit the required periodic filings to the employee and the government.  You can use QuickBooks or similar programs to help.  If you don’t have the patience or stomach to do it yourself (I don’t), you can use any payroll agency that works with small employers. caters specifically to home-based employers.  (I’ve never used them but love that they are a Massachusetts company.)

If you would like help determining the best way to manage payments to your caregiver, please call us.




Elder Abuse – Do You See Signs?

Filed under: Community,Elder Abuse,Financial — Alexis @ 1:45 PM

Do you have a family member or a neighbor who is elderly, or perhaps younger and intellectually disabled? These folks are prime targets for elder abuse.  Some things to keep your eyes and ears open for include:

  1. A previously uninvolved family member becomes the primary caregiver.
  2. A previously unfamiliar “friend” becomes the primary caregiver.
  3. Lots of repeat visits by the same repairmen – are they asking this person to write checks for unnecessary work?
  4. Payments in the checkbook that can’t be easily explained.
  5. Lots of ATM or bank withdrawals for cash, if that wasn’t previously this person’s habit.
  6. The caregiver won’t let others visit or call.
  7. Acting scared.
  8. Sudden bruises or injuries.
  9. Something just doesn’t seem right with the living situation. Trust your gut.

These are not all the signs of elder abuse.  If you suspect abuse of an elder or someone who is intellectually disabled, you can try any of the following: call your town senior center; call South Shore Elder Services or Old Colony Elderly Services (depending on your service area – see map here); call the police; or call the patient’s doctor.

If you see something, say something.

For help preventing yourself or a loved one from ever becoming a victim of elder abuse, please call us.

How Not to Sign Documents for Your Parents

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Estate Planning,Uncategorized — Alexis @ 1:43 PM

Very often, adult children find themselves in the position of signing documents on behalf of their parents.  This could take the form of signing a parent into a hospital or nursing home, signing a Medicare notice, signing the lease at an assisted living, etc.

When signing documents for a parent, do not sign just your own name.  On most documents, that makes you the financially responsible party!

ALWAYS sign this way: your name, comma, your role.

For example: “Alexis Levitt, POA for Cpt. Jack Sparrow” or “Alexis Levitt, POA” or “Alexis Levitt, HCP”, etc.

Signing your own name can open you personally to unwanted liabilities.  Always remember that you are not signing as yourself, but as an assistant to your parent.

Should I Have a Trust?

Filed under: Estate Planning,Financial,Special Needs Trusts — Alexis @ 1:40 PM

I hear this question a lot when I teach seminars.  If you’ve been to a seminar, you have heard me say that “trusts come in many flavors.”  There are all sorts of trusts, and whether you should have one depends entirely on your situation.  I would say that about one-third of my clients need some type of trust.  And for the other two-thirds, the cost simply isn’t warranted.

Here are some reasons you might need one:

(1) you have a special needs child or grandchild or sibling that you want to leave money to,

(2) you want your family to avoid probate,

(3) you have a complex distribution pattern that you want followed after your death, or

(4) you have over $1 million in assets and you want to do estate tax planning.

Here are some reasons you might not need one:

(1) you don’t have a special needs child, grandchild, or sibling,

(2) you don’t have a taxable estate (or you do but don’t mind paying taxes), or

(3) your assets are fairly simple and you’ve named beneficiaries on each of them.

These two lists are by no means exhaustive, they just show you some typical scenarios.  The only way to really know whether you need a trust is to meet with an elder law attorney who can review your assets, your family tree, and your wishes, and from there determine what the best course of action will be to transfer those assets to your family after your death, with the least amount of trouble.

Please call us so that we can help you determine whether or not you need a trust, and to make the inheritance process as easy as possible for your family.



Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver Has Something to Say About Guardianships

September 10, 2018

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Elder Abuse,Estate Planning — Alexis @ 1:14 PM

Have you seen his piece on guardianship?  It’s scary, they are extreme though not rare examples that he uses, and being John Oliver, the bit has its funny moments too.

As one of the spotlights, he tells the story of a couple who were put under guardianship, even though they perhaps were still competent (they certainly appear to be in the video), and then their guardian financially abused her power and basically ignored the couple’s everyday needs.  The couple ended up trapped in an assisted living and couldn’t get out, even though they had the mental and financial ability to leave, because a court had stripped them of the right to make their own decisions and manage their own money.  How did that happen?  He doesn’t give the back story, but in all likelihood, either they weren’t presenting well or they were difficult residents, so whomever was having a tough time with them is probably who brought the guardianship case to court, and a judge, assuming that all was in order, approved it.

Bottom line?  Don’t leave yourself in a position of ever needing a guardian!  In Massachusetts, we have two types of court-appointed fiduciaries:  a “guardian” handles your health care decisions, and a “conservator” manages your assets and finances.  (In the video, John Oliver refers to both of these as “guardians.”)  Why would a court appoint a guardian and/or conservator?  The vast majority of the time, it is because someone has become incompetent (typically due to dementia) AND never signed a durable power of attorney and health care proxy.

In a durable power of attorney, you name someone who you trust to handle your finances for you, should you reach a point where you are unable to do so.   (Technically, the POA springs to life immediately, but most agents understand not to use it until you need them to.)  In a health care proxy, you name someone who you trust to manage your health care if you reach a point where you can’t make or communicate your own health care decisions.  (The HCP springs to life only once a doctor certifies that you have reached that point.)

In both cases, the key is to name someone who you trust, and to name alternates as well.  If you don’t name alternates, and if your primary agent can’t serve when you need them to, then you are back in John Oliver’s video, where, should you become incompetent, or in some cases, if you are competent but a troublemaker, someone will go to court to have a guardian and conservator named over you.

If you would like help creating your durable power of attorney and health care proxy, please give us a call.

Open House @ New England Village – attn Parents of Special Needs Adults

April 24, 2017

Filed under: Adult Disabled Child — Alexis @ 2:32 PM

Open House

Saturday, April 29, 2017, 10:00am – 1:00pm

Learn all about their residential, day services and community offerings. RSVP preferred
Please contact Mary Stanley at 781-293-5461, ext. 113

See more at the New England Village website.

Elder Care Workshop Series at Norwell Public Library

March 13, 2017

Filed under: Alzheimer's,Caregiver Issues — Alexis @ 2:02 PM

Getting older? Taking care of someone who is? Come to this series to learn some helpful tips from local Elder Services professionals.


Wednesday, March 15:

“Learn to Speak Alzheimereze”

Discover tips to work with a person who is changing before your eyes and to learn to speak ‘Alzheimereze.’

Presented by Alzheimer’s coach Beverly Moore.

Wednesday, March 29: 

“Hospital to Home”

Understand how to make a successful transition from hospital to home.

Presented by Kim Bennett, LSW, of Visiting Angels, Inc.

“Do I Need Palliative or Hospice Care?”

Learn about the difference in important care choices.

Presented by Catherine Harrington, BA, RN, of Norwell VNA and Hospice.

***Workshops will be held at the Norwell Public Library from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Registration is requested, but not required via email at or calling 781.740.7269.

This series is sponsored by the Law Office of Alexis B. Levitt, the Norwell Council on Aging, and the Norwell Public Library.

Repeal & Replace of ObamaCare, a/k/a RyanCare

March 9, 2017

Filed under: Medicaid (MassHealth),Medical Care — rec1 @ 10:16 AM

There are so many articles coming out right now trying to summarize RyanCare.  I’ve gone straight to my favorite source for all things medical financing – the Kaiser Foundation.  Their reports are well researched, and not slanted one way or the other.  Just the facts.

Here’s their summary of RyanCare.  Obviously, being from a think tank rather than a newspaper, a lot of the report requires some background knowledge that most of us don’t have, but it’s still worth reading.

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