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Attorney Joe Cove and his generation are ʽredefining retirement’

By Rod Lee

Like many of today’s senior citizens, Uxbridge Attorney Joseph C. Cove is still working at the age of sixty-nine.

This is not to say he isn’t thinking about retiring. He looks forward to having more time for gardening and salmon fishing in Canada, which are two of his passions.

So too, however, is law, which he has practiced for forty-four years, dating back to the mid-1970’s.

Mr. Cove could probably continue in his chosen profession indefinitely. Seated at a conference table in his nephew Michael Cove’s insurance office on N. Main St. in Uxbridge on March 2nd, where he reflected for an hour or so on a long career, he appeared to be good health. He was also smartly dressed in a white shirt and snappy bow tie.

Like his father, J. Francis Cove, Attorney Cove has had staying power. His dad worked as a lawyer from 1932 right up until his death, fifty years later. Father and son worked together for a while, initially on S. Main St. in the building where Harry’s Pizza is now.

“Downtown was a pretty busy place then,” Mr. Cove said.

“I came here full-time in 1980,” he said of 9 N. Main St.

“I assumed my dad’s practice and developed my own clientele as well. I have taken care of three, sometimes four generations. We have touched a lot of families in the Blackstone Valley.”

Attorney Cove is representative of what Joan Wackell of Maestro Strategic Marketing refers to as “seniors redefining retirement.” Retirement, Ms. Wackell says, “is no longer expected. According to The Hartford’s Extra Mile blog on retirement, ‘the number of post-65 workers is on the upswing. By 2018, about 16 percent of women and 20 percent of men 65 and over were in the labor force, and these levels are expected to rise to 18 percent and 26 percent, respectively, by 2026.’”

That trend is an important one, Ms. Wackell points out, since “critical business experience-based knowledge (‘deep-smarts’), accumulated through a person’s career, is kept.”

Over the years, Attorney Cove has shared his expertise with clients on all sort of matters, from trust and estate planning to elder law, probate, real estate, business planning and land use, and municipal law. A graduate of Bowdoin College and Suffolk University School of Law, he has put his degrees from those institutions and the continuing education for lawyers he received through Harvard University’s School of Law to good use.

He has served as general counsel for the town of Grafton (which, he says, was facing “thirty lawsuits…I was hired to put the fire out”), as counsel in Millbury to the Sewer Commission (“I know every sewer line on Route 146”), and as counsel for the town of Leicester. He is still active in “muni law,” as counsel to “a couple of sewer districts.”

As he now transitions from a busy practice to a more manageable one, he has decided to focus on municipal law and land use while turning his trust, elder law and probate practice specialties over to a firm that shares his values and vision for superior client service. He selected Estate Preservation Law Offices, based in Worcester.

His motivation in doing so, he said, is to make sure his clients are taken care of. As he himself becomes elderly, “I might not be around” to handle estate claims as was the case in the past, he says. “It could be a disability, a divorce, something could happen to the children. They are looking at a nursing home or a long-term care situation. They or their children might need some help navigating the terribly confusing medical-assistance” environment. “How to manage assets. We live in an age of split marriages, blended families. Who is going to take care of mom and dad, who will handle the paperwork?”

In directing his clients to Brendan King and Estate Preservation Law Offices, he is counting on that company’s focus on elder law and Medicare to handle their issues with a diligence that matches his own. “They are very current on all of the rules and regulations and they have support staff.”

Times have changed, he said. “What is different now, in my generation, is the policy to keep loved ones off public assistance for long-term care. Forty, fifty years ago that attitude and bureaucracy were not there. We didn’t live that long, even if in a nursing home. Now people are living longer and dealing with disabilities but they don’t have the family support of fifty years ago.”

Speaking earnestly, Mr. Cove stressed the importance of planning ahead.

“As we get older we have a certain blindness—that nothing is going to change. We aren’t going to get hit by a bus or get terminal cancer, and that the kids will take care of us. People will say `I will turn all my assets over to the kids and they will take care of me.’ Big mistake. They will tell themselves `they all get along.’” Another common misconception that could prove costly.

There is also the strapped nature of today’s Probate to take into consideration. “At the old courthouse there were nice little old ladies and geraniums on the windowsills. Today, it’s metal detectors and Probate staff is overworked. Business today is restraining orders, child support, visitation rights, and so on.”

It is more acceptable today than it was yesterday, therefore, to “steer estates into a formal trust which is administered outside the court. There is no judicial interference. People die but the trust does not.

“There are times when we recommend an independent trustee (a bank, an administrator).”

A classic error people make in dealing with death and disability, Mr. Cove said, is, “they put it out of their minds. Instead of seeking competent counsel they are going to the Internet and pulling documents without knowing what they mean. Now they have a trust but the trust is not funded or they don’t fill in all the blanks, so their affairs become so jumbled they spend three times as much getting counsel.

“I want to be available to help people, to guide them and give them a blueprint based on my forty-four years’ experience. I’m still your guy but I am not going to be available to do the heavy lifting. I want to make sure they are in good hands.”

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.