Monthly Archives: August 2010

Transitioning From Nursing Home to Independence

A recent AARP article regarding a new trend of nursing home residents moving out of the facilities to regain their independence cautions senior citizens to carefully consider if this option is right for them.

Within the past few years, more state and federal programs have been made available to assist these individuals in their transition, and new bills have been passed that will increase funding as well. Senior citizens, with the help of nursing home attorneys, have been have been using these changes to their advantage. The main issue, however, lies with whether or not the individual is capable, based on factors such as physical well-being, community support, and other various resources.

images

If you or a loved one is considering transitioning out of a nursing home, ask yourself the following questions to gage if this decision is the right one:

· Are you physically capable?

· Can you afford to live on your own?

· Does your community offer in-home care?

· Can you find a home that caters to any of your handicaps?

· Is your potential home close to your relevant medical facilities?

· Are you mentally capable?

· Do you have available transportation?

· Will you be socially isolated?

It is crucial to honestly assess your situation and weigh the pros and cons of moving out of a nursing home. It’s a big step that requires a lot of careful consideration, and an experienced elder law attorney can help you along the way. Whether you wish to discuss funding options or research available resources, Massachusetts elder attorney Adam Tobin can facilitate the process for you. Contact him today.

Maryland to Pay $16 Million in Nursing Home Lawsuit

A Maryland lawsuit filed in 2005 regarding state Medicaid payments has finally reached a settlement. The lawsuit detailed the rights of nursing home patients and boundaries of their health care payments. The plaintiffs, which consisted of thousands of nursing home residents and about 160 nursing homes, were rewarded approximately $16 million dollars to clear their debts as a result of the state’s incorrect calculations regarding their incomes.

When living at nursing home facilities, patients often incur a certain amount of debt while waiting for approval for Medicaid coverage. Maryland was one of the many states that failed to comply with the federal and state laws that require nursing homes to factor this debt into patients’ incomes. The facilities required the residents to make co-payments despite their debt, which resulted in the bills getting paid by patients’ family members, or in some cases, the bills not getting paid at all.

nursing_home

The settlement money will go towards helping the nursing home residents get out of debt, as well as to cover any unpaid bills to the nursing homes. In exchange, about $64 million in nursing home bills will be excused. Elder lawyers are relieved with the deal, as without it, the settlement would have taken even longer to be reached.

The most important outcome of the settlement, however, is the change in state Medicaid rules that will assist future patients. Nursing home lawyers are hoping that this case will serve as a “road map” for other states.

To find out more about Massachusetts laws regarding Medicaid coverage and nursing home patients, contact a knowledgeable MA nursing home attorney like Adam Tobin to answer your questions.

View the full article here.

Updates to Beneficiary Designations

When was the last time you updated the beneficiary designations for your retirement plan? If it was too long ago to remember, then it could very easily be out of date. Retirement accounts are not part of our estate, but still require periodic attention and updating. Many people update their wills and estate plans but fail to update important beneficiary designations. Every year when reviewing your estate plan, you should also review your retirement plan beneficiary information to ensure it reflects your current interests.

One common misconception is that a retirement plan will be distributed according to your will. This notion is false- you must name a beneficiary yourself! Failure to do so could result in state or federal law taking control of your retirement plan benefits. Naming a beneficiary is the only way to ensure you have control of where your money ends up.

Additionally, if your estate exceeds the estate tax exclusion level, and if a large portion of the estate is retirement plans, then you may want to designate a trust as your beneficiary rather than a spouse. For the sake of avoiding tax issues, it’s worthwhile to consult with a living trust attorney.

Also make sure to keep your retirement plan up to date with any life changes, such as marriage and children. It’s important to keep the listed beneficiary consistent with your current life status. Also note that divorce does not automatically remove your ex-spouse from the plan!

Even without the occurrence of major life changes, it’s still necessary to review wills, estate plans, and retirement plans from time to time. For more information on how to update these documents, contact us and arrange a free consultation with Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney Adam Tobin.

The Risks of Joint Accounts

Joint accounts, also known as “the common person’s estate plan”, seem like an easy solution to evading probate and transferring funds to family members. However, there are some precautions that one must take to assure a joint account does not affect other aspects of the elder law planning process.

One aspect that could be affected is Medicaid coverage. When applying for Medicaid, the state bases eligibility on the applicant’s assets. Some states disregard the fact that there are two names on the account and work under the assumption that all assets belong to the applicant. Such an instance would require additional forms of proof to verify the correct amount of assets that belong to the applicant. Adam Tobin is experienced Medicaid planning and can help you determine the best course of action for your family.

joint-account1

Additionally, transferring assets out of the joint account or removing a joint owner from this account can be viewed as an improper transfer of assets. Depending on the amount of assets, this could make one or more of the account owners ineligible to receive Medicaid for a certain time period. Even if a spouse is taken off of the account because they are entering a nursing home, this is considered an ‘improper transfer’ and can negatively impact your eligibility.

Finally, joint accounts are accessible to all the account owners’ creditors, so if one of the account holders incurs significant credit card debt and is sued, collectors can take any money from the account, no matter which account owner contributed it.

Due to the setbacks associated with having a joint account, a trust may be a better alternative to protect your family assets. To learn more about Massachusetts living trusts and the options that are best for you and your family, it is best to consult with an experienced elder law attorney. Contact Adam Tobin today to learn more about trusts and estate planning.

When It’s Time to Have “The Talk”

If you’re a baby-boomer, you probably cringe at the idea of having “the talk”.  And I’m not talking about the one you have with your kids about where babies come from. “The talk” in reference is probably just as uncomfortable, but very necessary- it’s ‘the talk’ aging parents need to have with their children regarding finances in the final stages of life.

According to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “the talk” should detail parents’ preferences for money management, paying for long-term care, a healthcare proxy, and burial or funeral arrangements, among other things.

All of these topics, however, are sensitive in nature because of the shift in control associated with them. Parents are used to holding the position of power when it comes to their children, and this kind of role reversal can be hard to accept.  It’s also difficult because imminent death is rarely a light or pleasant conversation.  However, helping your parents prepare and making sure you know their wishes should help to ease their minds.

estate-planning

The article advises that you follow these simple tips to make “the talk” a little less intimidating:

  • Use your own financial planning to lay the foundation of the conversation to avoid singling them out.
  • Be direct.
  • Have you parent(s) write down account numbers, logins, and any other useful information necessary to access accounts if needed.  They can store this document in a safe place in their home or in a safety deposit box- as long as the executor will have access to it when needed.
  • Don’t try to rush the planning; these things take time and consideration.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice given is to meet with a lawyer to assist you in probate administration, health care options, estate planning, and other elder law services.  Adam Tobin is an experienced probate and estate planning attorney. Contact him to see how he can help you make “the talk” less awkward and more productive.