Skip to main content
John L Roberts

John Roberts’s Answers

65 total

  • I am looking to apply for SSDI, I am pretty sure I have a solid case. I am wondering what the standard fee is?

    The first lawyer I talked to said they would love to take the case and that they take 25% of the first (back ) payment. To me this sounds a little high but I have a friend that said that she heard it can be as much as 40%. what is a good rate. doe...

    John’s Answer

    More important than the contingency percentage is whether you trust and respect the attorney, and whether the attorney believes in you and your case.

    You can get a good understanding of how well each representative you are considering understands your case, and your likelihood for success, by asked each of them for a case evaluation.

    See question 
  • Can you own a LLC and still collect disability benefits?

    I have a publishing company which has not made any money as of yet. I recently had to retire from my job as a full time peace officer due to a work related injury. Will I have to give my LLC up in order to continue receiving benefits? Please help

    John’s Answer

    You didn't mention the source of your retirement benefits, but it does sound like you are concerned about receiving retirement based on disability, while working as a self employed person.

    The best place to ask your question would be the agency that administers your retirement plan. You may want an attorney to ask for you, and advise you.

    Your question was posted in the Social Security category. You can get some perspective on how seriously Social Security views people who collect disability while making substantial earnings in self employment on this video:

    See question 
  • I need a social security lawyer.

    I am appealing the decision from social security claim . I need someone with experience to represent me.

    John’s Answer

    When you talk with your new representative or attorney, be sure to ask them to carefully look over the SSA-3373-BK FUNCTION REPORT, and SSA-3369-BK WORK HISTORY REPORT forms that you would have already filled out and filed, before your claims got denied.

    These forms are the foundation "building blocks" for explaining why you are disabled and can't work. What you say on the forms has a big impact on how a disability reviewer or Administrative Law Judge will look at your claim later on. The facts you testify about in your hearing need to match and reinforce what you said in the beginning on the forms.

    This is especially important if your disability causes physical pain. The Administrative Law Judge will have to decide whether or not to believe you, when you testify about how bad it is.

    If you forgot to mention important facts about your daily life that explain your limitations, and intensity and frequency of pain, your new representative or Attorney can work on getting that into the record now.

    Same with the information about your past work on the WORK HISTORY REPORT. If that isn't exactly correct, with dates out of order, or few details about how your health was impacting what you were able to do, your new representative of Attorney can clear up the fact errors, and strengthening the judge's understanding of your disability.

    See question 
  • Massachusetts Estate Tax

    My fathers estate at his death was under 1 million but during his lifetime he made gifts of over $300K. My understanding is that the value of the gifts has to be added back into the estate to determine whether a state tax return needs to be filed....

    John’s Answer

    You might change your conclusion after reading the Department of Revenue's Guide to Estate Taxes. There are several steps to get to the bottom line. It would be worthwhile to hire an estate settlement professional to take responsibility for your case.

    A Guide to Estate Taxes (Applicable to dates of death on or after January 1, 2003)

    See question 
  • Which option is better, to gift my multi unit property (approx. 1m value) to my two children or sell it on the market?

    I own a 4 unit building and i live in one. I wish to either give the deed over to my two children, both owning 50%, but is it better to sell the building, take the cash and then gift the money? The basis of the building is 200k, and my husband has...

    John’s Answer

    Your question shows you have done your research on the principal residence exclusion. As a widow, the tax laws gave you two years after death of your spouse to take advantage of the full $500,000 exclusions.

    But the principal residence exclusion would only cover 1/4 of the property, right? Your accountant will know the answer to that. There are so many other factors you are thinking about. Do your children want to take on responsibility for ownership of a multi family? Can you show them how to manage the building profitably? Maybe the answers to those questions can help you weigh the capital gains issues that will arise if you sell the property and cash out.

    Another idea would be a Living Trust. You would keep the property in your estate, and your children would get a step up in basis, and no capital gains tax upon your passing.

    But we don't know what else might be in your estate. (Is your estate which worth more than the Massachusetts $1 million exclusion will cover?) Now we're into a discussion of potential estate taxes.

    And, of course, we can't forget about potential long term care costs. There are trusts that preserve the principal residence exclusion, and insulate you from care costs. But, you can't get the answers you need from general statements about trust and tax laws.

    Talking to an elder law - estate planning attorney and your accountant will help you form a good plan for you and your children.

    See question 
  • Challenging a massachusetts will for a florida resident

    my dad who was a florida resident but owned property in massachusetts died suddenly at age 66 and my stepmother has produced and filed a 17 yr old will drawn up by his neighbor in massachusetts who happened to be a lawyer. his estate is worth more...

    John’s Answer

    You should begin with a visit to an Estate Settlement and Probate attorney who is also licensed in Florida, or who can associate with a Florida attorney, to look at what you're dealing with.

    Was the probate document issued by a Florida Court? Your question raises some interesting "choice of law" issues that your attorney will certainly be researching and explaining to you. If Massachusetts law is relevant, there is a discussion of Capacity, Undue Influence and Other Objections to Massachusetts Will Documents posted at:

    Your question contains clues (your stepmother's statements to you) that indicate your father may have set up a plan to protect her, and you. An article on Estate Planning Before a Second Marriage is posted at:

    If your father's neighbor-lawyer was an estate planning attorney, he might have created a Q-TIP trust that gives your stepmother the income from all the money until she passes. Article on that is posted at:

    Other trust provisions that direct marital estate assets are discussed at:

    If your father's estate is worth $4 million, there are estate tax and income tax issues here. Working with your step mother could benefit all parties.

    Starting off on a positive and cooperative note may be your best approach. Your attorney can advise you.

    -John L. Roberts
    Estate Settlement, Probate, Estate Planning, Elder Law, Disability Law
    Longmeadow, Massachusetts

    See question 
  • I just received an Order of Notice from my deceased parent's mortgage lender's attorney. What if any are my responsibilities?

    My brother had power-of-attorney, and they took out a mortgage in 2007. Since then my parents have died (2007 and 2010). My brother continued to reside there and paid the mortgage. We never went through probate to settle the estate. My brother ...

    John’s Answer

    It sounds like the financial institution is petitioning to become administrator of the estate of the second - to - die parent.

    If your parents owned the house jointly, the surviving parent would have owned the property at death, and something must be done to establish who owns it now.

    Massachusetts Probate Law says that a creditor can petition to administer an estate if no one in the family steps up:

    Paragraph THIRD might be what the bank attorney is using to file his petition.

    The question for survivors like you is: "How much equity is left in the house?" If your brother stopped paying the mortgage, he probably stopped paying the town property taxes and home maintenance, too.

    If there's something left after those costs are taken care of by the equity (over and above mortgage principal and interest), you may have an interest worth pursuing. But you don't know until you investigate.

    John L. Roberts
    Estate Settlement, Probate, Estate Planning, Elder Law and Disability Law
    Longmeadow, Massachusetts

    PS: The Massachusetts Probate Code sets up a new system on April 1, 2012, and the statute linked here is repealed effective on that date.

    See question 
  • What does ( owners name) then ttee for ( name) on a checking account statment mean if the owner dies

    it is also a personal money market account their is no will also an account with owners name and itf for an other person. one account has itf and two have ttee what does that mean

    John’s Answer

    Massachusetts banking law explains the ITF designation at:

    John L. Roberts
    Elder Law, Estate Settlement, Estate Planning, Probate, Disability Law
    Longmeadow, Massachusetts

    See question 
  • What's the difference between a disability/elder lawyer and a social security lawyer?

    I am on SSI. I had received monies from a class action back in 2008 which were properly deposited (trust). Recently, I've received monies from a second class action which were also deposited into that same trust. However, I represented myself t...

    John’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    The difference you are looking for requires an attorney who understands the SSI income and asset rules, AND the language in your trust documents.

    As you know, if you have income, or if you have assets that exceed the levels allowed by SSI, SSI reduces or cuts off the monthly income you need to pay your living expenses..

    You need an attorney who understands what those trusts say, and how transferring your settlement money to the trusts affects your SSI income. Until you get solid counsel on how the trusts fit together with your monthly income and assets, you can't tell the case workers at Social Security how you want them to view your case.

    You can get links to Social Security booklets on the SSI income and assets rules at:

    But these are just the starting points for discussion with an attorney who can explain and protect your interests. The money that your Trustee takes out of your trusts must be properly allocated to your supplemental needs. Otherwise, if the money goes to buy food or pay rent, SSI is going to reduce your monthly benefits.

    Rgulations in your state that affect your health insurance must also be understood and explained by your attorney.

    Ask your state bar association or the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys

    to recommend an attorney who knows about SSI, trust law in your state, and your state's health insurance programs.

    -John L. Roberts
    Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate and Disability Law
    Longmeadow - Springfield, Massachusetts

    See question 
  • I want to obtain guardianship of my siblings while our mother is in rehab, how do I go about doing that?

    Hi, I am 19, my brother is 16, and my sister is 9. We lost our father three years ago in a work accident. Our mother has slowly become addicted to her prescription pain medication and now is in rehab for it as a result. She gave temporary guardian...

    John’s Answer

    Since he is over age 14, your brother can "nominate" the person who he wants to serve as his Guardian. Under the Massachusetts Probate Code, your mother has a say in designating the Guardian for your brother and sister.

    MCLE has posted a book online that covers the Probate Code sections:

    But, you are at a disadvantage if you try to figure out by yourself how and where to file the petitions for Guardianship of your brother and sister. Take a look at the petition form you have to file, and you can see how complicated things will become when you consider the relationships involved here, and the notice requirements. An objective professional can work with you to give the Petition the best chance for getting approval.

    You didn't mention whether the state's child protection agency is involved yet. But if the situation escalates, that might happen. Hiring an experienced guardianship attorney to help you is a first step toward stabilizing your family's situation.

    A Petitioner's checklist is posted at:

    I practice in Hampden County, so I don't have information on legal resources serving Boston and Suffolk County where you are located. But those resources are there. Contact the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Massachusetts Guardianship Association, and the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library. Their contact information is online, and they can direct you to the legal services that would be best suited to serve you.

    -John L. Roberts
    Estate Planning, Elder Law, Probate and Disability Law
    Longmeadow, Massachusetts

    See question