Bragdon should be able to handle dual Senate-LGC roles

New Hampshire, with its volunteer legislature, cannot help but run into situations in which personal and vocational assignments conflict with office


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A recent column I wrote about the Craig family of attorneys and prominent Manchester citizens received a lot of comment from those who recognize the contributions of the family.

I was reminded that there is a former Manchester police chief from the clan, and both Bill Craig and attorney David Nixon, another prominent senior member of the bar, reminded that Bill Craig was a third generation of Craigs who contributed to the practice of law in New Hampshire, rather than just the patriarch of the present three generations involved in New Hampshire life.

Nixon sent an eloquent letter recounting his experiences with elder Craig attorneys and the late Stanley M. Brown when Nixon was a young lawyer pitted in a defamation case against the Union Leader and publisher William Loeb. The story is too long and complex to recount here but involved a lot of the prominent citizens of New Hampshire and would be worth telling in detail.

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For the first half of August, the Cooks took a cruise from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska, and then the train from Seward to Anchorage, to Denali National Park to Fairbanks.

For those who have not visited the 49th state, it is a very different place. The wildlife, the topography, the glaciers, the vastness and the fact that Alaska is both the farthest west and farthest east state (some of it being beyond the International Date Line) makes this expanse truly a wonder to behold.

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While we were away, the issue of Senator Peter Bragdon’s taking the leadership of the Local Government Center with its attendant political fallout arose.

Viewed from afar, it seemed difficult for Bragdon to continue in the Senate president’s role while taking on the LGC assignment, and he ultimately came to that conclusion. Peter Bragdon is a friendly, ethical, honest and talented politician and should contribute greatly to the LGC. His loss as Senate President, however, is unfortunate.

At this writing, Chuck Morse of Salem appears to be the successor, with all of the Republican votes committed to him. Morse, while possessing a different personality from Bragdon’s, undoubtedly will not change a whole lot of the dynamic in Concord. It is interesting how many senate presidents there have been in the last couple of decades, compared to the number of house speakers.

New Hampshire, with its volunteer legislature, cannot help but run into situations in which personal and vocational assignments conflict with office. It will be interesting to see how Bragdon continues his role as a member of the Senate while leading the Local Government Center. The betting from here is that he can pull it off.

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A recent column on legislative changes involving estate planning and related areas brought to mind two other bills the Legislature passed in the last session.

Senate Bill 107 made several changes to the probate process. First, it allows proving a will by the assent of heirs and the director of charitable trusts, rather than requiring a witness. Sometimes, a will is not notarized and none of the witnesses are available, and this change simplifies the process for having such a circumstance result in a will being admitted to probate.

Also, the law expands cases in which probate administration can be waived in its entirety. Currently, when a parent leaves to a child who is also the executor or to a spouse who is the fiduciary, probate can be waived. The new law allows it to be waived when a parent or irrevocable trust is the only heir. These provisions also apply to circumstances when a person dies without a will but the same individuals would inherit.

The basic theory here is that people should not be required to account to themselves for their administration of an estate of which they are the sole beneficiaries and it continues the trend in New Hampshire to make the probate process more rational.

Another bill, SB 138 affects those responsible for people in nursing homes or assisted living. Undoubtedly the result of lobbying by the nursing home community, it makes guardians of people in nursing homes personally liable for the payments nursing homes are required to forego when Medicaid applications have not been made in a timely manner and residents are out of money.

The new law also requires payment by those who have received gifts during the so-called “look back” period of five years. The law says that any assets transferred during the five years before an application for Medicaid have to be brought back into a resident’s assets to be spent on care before Medicaid is available.

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

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