Legal

Legal

Year-End Donations – Give Wisely – Don’t Get Scammed

As the holidays approach, people start thinking about making charitable donations. But take care with those well-meaning plans. Each year, crooks use scams to cheat people and to steal millions of dollars intended for charities.

The problem is that these scams are hard to identify. For example, the Federal Trade Commission in May filed a lawsuit against the Cancer Fund of America, the Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society.

These charities, which have existed for years, have raised more than $200 million, yet only about 3 percent of their money went to cancer patients, research or treatment, according to the FTC. The trouble is that when someone gets a phone call from an organization such as the Children’s Cancer Fund of America, it sounds legitimate and well-meaning, so people donate money.

DOORSTEP SCAMS

Some scams are closer to home. A few years ago, a teenager along with an older gentleman, asked local business owners to contribute to a Muscular Dystrophy Association bike ride. In exchange, donors were promised discounted Cedar Point season passes. Instead, the scammers pocketed the cash.

This is a big problem with a solution. Look at the FTC and Ohio Attorney General websites to help identify scams targeting people who want to donate to charities. For example, the FTC recently issued a warning about charity scams in connection with recent floods in Louisiana.

SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU WANT TO CONTRIBUTE TO CHARITY?

Here are five steps to take to make sure your money goes to the charity you want

1 Research the Charity.

If you are not familiar with the charity you can research it on the FTC website, consumer .ftc.gov. You can also research on the Ohio Attorney General’s website, ohioattorneygeneral.gov, to find charities registered in the state.These websites have links to organizations such as Charity Navigator, Charity Watch and Guide Star, which provide valuable information about charities, including how much they spend on charitable activity versus payroll and other overhead.

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Medicaid Changes – “Too Much Income” to Qualify? What Does That Mean?

On Aug. 1, 2016, the Ohio Department of Medicaid drastically changed eligibility rules for Medicaid benefits for people who are disabled and others who need long-term care.

My column in the September/ October 2016 issue of this magazine highlighted three significant changes in these new rules: How Medicaid deals with the applicant’s home, how Medicaid treats retirement funds that belong to an applicant’s spouse, and the applicability of a rule (new in Ohio) that bars Medicaid coverage for people who have too much income.

SO, WHAT DOES “TOO MUCH INCOME” MEAN?

As I wrote in the last issue, “too much income” sounds weird. But because Medicaid provides money for medical coverage for the poor, having “too much income” can make someone ineligible for help.

Those whose gross income is higher than $2,199 per month are ineligible for Medicaid coverage for long-term care. (That amount is adjusted from time to time to compensate for inflation.) That $2,199 is not enough to pay for long-term care for most people; it would cover a few hours of home care each week.

Because the amount of income that blocks eligibility is not enough to keep up with the costs of long-term care, a method has been created to make it so that only part of a Medicaid recipient’s income actually counts as income. As an aside, don’t look for logic here. This stuff is crazy. It’s what satisfies the rules, though. The only explanation I can offer for this “too much income” thing is that these are the rules.

To make some income not count as income for Medicaid purposes, recipients can run some of their income each month through a Qualified Income Trust, commonly referred to as a Miller Trust.

“Qualified Income” is not counted as income for Medicaid eligibility purposes, and the monthly money that goes through the Qualified Income Trust is “Qualified Income.” The result is someone can become (or remain) eligible for Medicaid help with long-term care costs by using a Miller Trust.

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Legal Protection – Make Moves to Aid Adult Children with Profound Disabilities, Mental Illness

It is not easy for parents to realize that their children have profound disabilities or mental illness.

They face the fact that their children will continue to need care and support for the rest of their lives.

It seems logical and understandable that parents will take over for their disabled child when they become adults. However, those rights are not granted to them by a mere fact of their child’s mental illness or profound disabilities.

When a child turns 18 and becomes an adult, parents lose all legal rights to act on behalf of the child, even if that adult child is not competent to act on his own behalf. That exclusion extends to medical records, a crucial point when an adult child receives complex medical treatment for physical or psychological issues.

It is important in this situation for parents to be prepared to take legal measures in a timely manner to protect their adult child’s interests and to ensure his well-being and proper care.

GETTING STARTED The first and most important step in this situation is to obtain guardianship over the adult child. There are two types of guardianships: of person and of estate. Often, the adult child does not have any assets, and the parents only need to obtain guardianship of person.

To become a guardian, the parent must file an application with the probate court of the county where the adult child resides. The court investigates each case and reviews doctors’ statements before a judge or court official makes a decision to appoint a guardian.

After the parent is appointed legal guardian of an adult child, the parent has the right to act on behalf of the child and has authority to access the child’s legal and medical records.

However, as soon as the parent becomes the guardian of person and of estate of an adult child, the parent assumes new duties and responsibilities.

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Cases & Controversies – An Open Enrollment Guide for Newcomers

For you pros at Medicare open enrollment, you know that this is when you review your Medicaid Advantage Plan, Supplement and Drug plans to make sure you are set for another year.

For newbies, there are some legal issues regarding Medicare coverage that don’t get much publicity but are very important.

SKILLED NURSING AND WHAT’S COVERED

Many people incorrectly think that Medicare won’t pay much for skilled care such as rehabilitation, therapy, wound dressing and other daily health needs in a skilled facility or at home. Services and Medicare billing are stopped quickly because they think that Medicare will not pay anymore if the patient is not showing “improvement” or he “fails to progress.” This idea has become pervasive in health care, and people simply accept it as the law.

However, “improvement” is not the standard by which Medicare can stop paying for skilled nursing care; it never has been. A 2011 federal class action lawsuit against Medicare was filed to help clarify coverage for millions of seniors. The government settled the case in 2012 by agreeing that under federal law people cannot be denied coverage for skilled care just because they have reached a plateau and are not improving.

Coverage is necessary if the person needs skilled care to maintain his or her condition, prevent complications or to not backslide. This is a maintenance standard, not an improvement standard.

Medicare also was required to educate all seniors receiving Medicare and all Medicare skilled care providers about the corrected policy. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) agreed to do so.

In 2014, they released instructions and updated Program Manuals for Medicare billing and appeals agencies. They issued a fact sheet to inform providers and the public about the change. They were supposed to spot check nursing homes, home health care agencies and other providers to make sure they were using the correct standards.

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Good Advice – When (and How) to Find a Competent Attorney

Do you know whether you need estate planning or long-term care planning, and how to find a competent attorney?

Most people don’t. Clients often think they need to protect assets from a nursing home only to learn that what they really need is a new will, trust and powers of attorney.

MAKE A PLAN FOR YOUR ESTATE

Estate planning is the process of providing for yourself and your family in the event of your retirement, disability or death. Through a properly crafted estate plan, you put your legal and financial affairs in order so that the assets you have accumulated during your lifetime will be preserved and transferred to your heirs with the least amount of tax, financial and emotional cost. The most common estate planning tools available include a will, a trust, a durable power of attorney, a health care power of attorney and a living will declaration.

Sit down with your family to plan out some of the most important issues you face. Who will handle your affairs when you are incompetent or dead? How do you want to pass your assets to the next generation? What kinds of medical treatment do,you want or not want at the end of life? Your plan will vary depending upon your family situation, assets, and goals and plans for the future. The more your net worth, the more complicated and more important the planning becomes.

Long-term care planning includes many of the same things that you need for estate planning. In addition, a big focus is how to protect and preserve assets if you need long-term medical care.

LONG-TERM CARE PLANNING

Often, long-term care planning means trying to qualify for Department of Veterans Affairs or Medicaid benefits — the only government programs that will pay for long-term care at home, in assisted living and nursing home care.

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Scammed – Protect Yourself And Your Loved Ones From Common Cons

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, more than 2 million senior citizens are affected by financial abuse. It is the number one crime committed against people age 65 and older.

These scams fall generally into the category of financial elder abuse. Seniors lose nearly $3 billion to fraud annually, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

NEW SCAMS, SAME TARGETS

It seems that every day a new type of scam pops up. Originally, seniors would fall prey to official looking letters in the daily mail. These letters would promise prize winnings, free trips or money, all of which are very tempting to a senior living on a fixed income. Many required “just a small deposit” to be returned in order to secure the winnings, which of course never materialized.

Then telephone calls became popular. Maybe your mother was sitting at home watching TV when the phone rang and a friendly voice was on the other end asking how her day was going. The person becomes a friend and then asks for a loan or offers services to Mom for a fee. The money disappears, and Mom is lonely once again.

 

Of course, there are the schemers preying on grandparents, pretending to be a grandchild stranded in India who needs money to get home. The money is wired to a faraway destination. The grandchild was never there to begin with.

Seniors increasingly are tech savvy and are online with family and friends. The same scams as noted above can work electronically as well. Be sure you and older family members have anti spy ware, antivirus and antiphishing software security on computers to help reduce scam emails. Additionally, a secure firewall on your computer and mobile devices is a must to prevent unwelcome intrusions.

MORE THREATS

Thieves now also have sophisticated equipment that can copy credit card information from an online site or in person when paying for gas or using an ATM machine.

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Knowing Your Rights In Power of Attorney

Millions of people have powers of attorney. However, are you opening yourself up to problems in this common estate planning document? Attorney Michael Solomon explains this document and how you can make it work for you.

WHAT’S A POWER OF ATTORNEY?

A power of attorney is a simple legal document that authorizes someone you name, typically a trusted family member, to handle your legal or financial affairs. With this document your agent, the person you give it to, can step in to help when you become incapacitated.

CAN YOU NAME THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT LEGAL DOCUMENTS YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE?

I’ll give you a hint: a will and a trust are the wrong answers. The two most important legal documents are a financial durable power of attorney and a health care durable power of attorney. Wills and trusts are certainly important. Those are documents to plan for your estate at your death. The durable powers of attorney for finances and health care are designated to protect you during your lifetime.

The first document, the financial durable power of attorney, authorizes someone you trust, usually a spouse or child, to handle your finances. The agent you name can pay your bills, sign checks, sell stocks and generally handle your finances. If you become incapacitated or unable to handle your financial affairs, your agent under the financial durable power of attorney can easily step in to handle things.

The other document is the health care durable power of attorney. With this document, you can authorize someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you can’t make your own.

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS?

When you give someone a power of attorney, you’re giving them the power to go to the bank and take your money, or to sell the house. That’s a lot of power, and it can also lead to problems.

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You’re Raising a Grandchild – Now What? Proper legal documents can protect your rights – and theirs

Today, more and more grandchildren are being raised by grandparents for a variety of reasons. Death, illness, or drug abuse could all require changes in living circumstances.

But what rights do you, the grandparent, have with regard to raising your grandchild? Schools and medical providers want proof that you have the right to make decisions and speak for the grandchild’s interests. There are a number of ways to obtain such rights.

UNDERSTAND YOUR OPTIONS

Ohio law was changed in July 2014 to enact the “Grandparents Caretaker Law” which provides two methods by which non-custodial grandparents can obtain caretaker rights relatively simply.

First, if you are noncustodial but need rights as to schooling or medical care, the parent can sign a caretaker power of attorney to grant the grandparent with whom the grandchild is residing. This document helps the grandparent have the ability to make decisions for care and school matters. Examples are medical, psychological or dental treatment for the child, school enrollment and school educational and behavioral information.

A parent can only grant this authority under certain hardship circumstances like serious illness, homelessness or the death of one parent, and only if it is in the best interest of the child. This power of attorney does not convey legal custody. The form must be witnessed and notarized and filed with the local county juvenile court.

Second, if the parents cannot be found after a good faith effort was made to find them, state law allows the non-custodial grandparent to sign a caretaker authorization affidavit stating that the parent is not available and the grandparent is granted the same rights as listed above. The form must be signed, notarized and filed with the local county juvenile court within five days.

Either of these two documents terminate after one year or if the child stops living with the grandparent, by court order, the death of grandparent or grandchild, or revocation.

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