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Monday, April 22, 2013

Protecting Seniors from Being Taken Advantage Of

Unfortunately, there have been an increase in reports of senior citizens being taken advantage of. There are various ways seniors are being taken advantage of, but one strikes particular interest with our firm; the deceptive and unfair methods of some Financial Advisors.

Being an Elder Care and Disability Law Firm, we are constantly in contact and working closely with Financial Advisors. They are a vital resource not only for us, but for our clients. We are confident in the Financial Advisors that we work with, but it is a shame that not many out there are honoring their commitment and efforts to help families.

In the link provided below there are a list of 7 guidelines that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggest to seniors to follow to avoid choosing a bad financial advisor or product

Click Here

It is important to be aware and alert to suspicious activity. Senior abuse is a crime and will not go untolerated. If you suspect any senior abuse being taken place please contact the Department of Health and Services.

For more resources and information on senior abuse you may also check out this website : http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What are Advance Directives?

Are you prepared if a tragedy strikes making you or a loved one go to the hospital?

Fortunately we have the right to make our own decisions when it comes to our healthcare, but what if that ability was taken away? How will you and your loved ones wishes be protected? The solution: Advance Directives.

Advance Directives are legal documents stating your wishes for the doctors and rest of your healthcare team to follow when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. During critical times, these documents can make a world a difference.

In recognition of Advance Directive Day on April 16th, our firm will be hosting a Lunch and Learn.

Lunch will be provided and we are honored to have guest speakers Reverend Ed Hampton and Community Outreach Representative for EverCare Hospice Carol Mullen. We invite anyone to join to learn useful information, resources and receive answers to your questions on the importance of Advance Directives.    

See attached flyer for more details. Lunch provided. RSVP REQUIRED!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Come hear Patti speak Tuesday, March 26th!

Come join us at the Tapestry House of Alpharetta Tuesday, March 26th at 6:30pm.

Patti will be speaking about the difference between being housebound with a  caregiver vs moving into an Assisted Living Facility. 

All are welcome!

 

 

 

 

 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March is Social Work Month!

Featured Article by Thom Corrigan, MSW, CMC

Each March we are asked to celebrate Social Work month. For some, this means sending a note or an e-mail to a social worker we may know. For others, it may be treating a social work colleague to lunch or bringing them a plant or some flowers to show our appreciation for them.

But this year, I invite you all to celebrate what social workers do, in addition to who they are. Social workers possess many traits and skills. These include being trained to serve as advocates and brokers for our clients. Social workers have developed skills in the areas of empowerment, resourcefulness, problem solving and helping people with transition. They help people to learn new skills while at the same time, helping them to regain confidence, self-esteem, self-determination and resilience. Social workers do this in part by modeling, teaching, empowering, counseling and developing in a person the traits and characteristics that will lead to better outcomes and create a heightened sense of accomplishment and independence.

Each year, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) creates a theme as part of its celebration for social work. This year's theme is "Weaving Threads of Resilience and Advocacy: The Power of Social Work."   Lastly, did you know that Social Work is the only profession that has the word "WORK" in its name? I find that interesting-

Happy Social Work Month to all my professional peers and colleagues and thanks for all that you do to help people with their everyday needs and challenges!

Thom Corrigan, MSW, CMC
Certified Care Manager


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Caregiver Appreciation

Expressing appreciation for the assistance received from caregivers is something that not many think about, but is certainly needed. Now some may say, “Why should I be grateful for help from someone I am paying?” Or in the case of family caregivers, “Aren’t family members supposed to take care of each other?” Research shows, however, that not only does expressing appreciation make the caregiver feel better about what they do, but also that the people expressing gratitude have a greater sense of well-being.

Expressing appreciation for something your caregiver has done for you does not require the eloquence of a public speaker, only a few words are all that it takes. Examples of some things to say thank you for are : “Your gentleness when helping me change positions really minimizes my pain. Thank you.” “The way you talk to me as a person, rather than a patient, really makes me feel good.”  By giving sincere words of affirmation  will not only allow the caregiver to feel appreciated, but will help them to have a know how you liked to be cared for.

Expressing gratitude is a choice. This month, show some appreciation to someone who helps care for those in need.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Is it possible to establish a Trust for your Pet?

Laws on the subject of pet trusts vary from state to state.  Since animals are not allowed to be beneficiaries of a trust, various legislative devices have been employed in the past.  Some states authorized the creation of “honorary trusts” which could be used to provide for the care of a pet, but were not enforceable by a court.  The Uniform Probate Code recognized “pet trusts” in 1990, and the Uniform Trust Code added a pet trust provision in 2000.  However, the Uniform Codes are only recommendations, and each state chooses whether or not to adopt any of their provisions.  As of the end of 2009, 42 states and the District of Columbia have adopted some type of provision which allows creation of a pet trust, some based on the Uniform Trust Code provisions, and some on neither, including some remaining “honorary trust” provisions.

The law has traditionally regarded pets as “property” and thus not possessing any rights.  In the past, individuals had to do such things as leaving money to a person with instructions to care for their animals, and hope that their wishes would be carried out, since there was no legal way to enforce such a provision.  However, a growing recognition of the importance of companion animals to people has led to several advancements in legislative establishment of means to protect animals left behind.  Call if you have questions!  Our office can help with your pet planning needs (770)416-0776.

 


Monday, February 11, 2013

Helpful News for Trustees and Beneficiaries for Special Needs Trusts

Last fall the Social Security Administration quietly released the text of changes to the Program Operations Manual System -- the POMS. Though described as "clarifications" by Social Security, they were actually far-reaching changes that would have driven up the cost of trust administration, complicated the lives of beneficiaries and provided no additional protection for anyone involved.

Lawyers, trustees and advocates raised objections, and thankfully Social Security listened. Last week another set of changes were announced and the news is entirely good for everyone.

First, a word about POMS. This not very well known set of rules has far-reaching effect. It is a manual of instructions for Social Security eligibility workers, explaining how to treat all manner of documents, transactions and information obtained in the course of eligibility applications and reviews. You can look at the POMS online, but you will quickly see that it is a complicated, detailed and tightly-written set of rules.

The POMS is not law. It is not even a set of regulations governing Social Security eligibility. It has no legal force, and so one might think it is not important. Actually, it is more important than the law, at least in day-to-day decision-making. It is the document Social Security eligibility workers look to when faced with any wrinkle, confusion or question.

The changes last fall addressed several sections of the POMS dealing with how to treat expenditures from special needs trusts. Some of the changes focused on just "self-settled" special needs trusts, others included expenditures by "third-party" special needs trusts and perhaps even payments by family members or others who try to help recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Among the changes posted last fall:

  • When family members paid for items for a trust beneficiary -- like medical supplies, clothing, transportation or pretty much anything else -- reimbursement from a trust would be treated as income to the beneficiary, even though nothing ever went through the beneficiary's hands or account. The same would have been true for trust payments to the family member's credit card.
  • Payments for caregiving could not be made to a family member unless the family member was certified in some way. (This change actually wouldn't have made much difference in Arizona, since a variation of this rule is already in place for Arizona Medicaid -- AHCCCS/ALTCS -- recipients.)
  • Travel expenditures for third persons to visit a trust beneficiary would have been prohibited in pretty much all circumstances.

What changed? Social Security initially removed the change governing travel, and then indicated that the others were under review. Reportedly the high-level reconsideration included senior staff and even out-going Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue (who had already submitted his resignation from that post, to be effective February 13, 2013). Commissioner Astrue wanted the reconsideration completed before the end of his tenure, so Social Security moved very quickly to make changes.

Last week one of the reviews got completed, and the reimbursement policy changed. Not only did it change -- it actually changed to make good sense. Now POMS section SI 01120.200 E.1.d, "Reimbursements to a third party," reads:

"Reimbursements made from the trust to a third party for funds expended on behalf of the trust beneficiary are not income.

"Existing income and resource rules apply to items a trust beneficiary receives from a third party. If a trust beneficiary receives a non-cash item (other than food or shelter), it is in-kind income if the item would not be a partially or totally excluded non-liquid resource if retained into the month after the month of receipt. If a trust beneficiary receives food or shelter, it is income in the form of in-kind support and maintenance (ISM)."

Similar changes have been made in another, related section, SI 01120.201 I.1.f.

What does it mean?

  •  It means that an arrangement used by trustees all over the country, though without any specific authorization, has now been formally blessed by Social Security.
  • It means that the trustees of special needs trusts can reimburse family members who buy clothing, bedding, diapers, supplements, medical devices, transportation services, furniture -- all manner of items -- without risking loss of benefits from Social Security.
  • It means that all of those things can be done without limiting or losing benefits from AHCCCS and ALTCS (Arizona's version of Medicaid). It means that a system that worked well, was responsible and cost-effective, is now available again to trustees, beneficiaries and family members.

Word is that the other changes are in the works for release this week. Here's hoping all the changes will be as thoughtful and responsive to practical realities.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Importance in making the right choice in Assisted Living

When families and seniors are looking at assisted living communities, it’s a momentous, life changing time. With so many options out there, it is important to get it right the first time.

It can be such an intimidating choice that many families come down with “analysis paralysis” and indefinitely postpone a decision out of fear of making the wrong choice.

Fortunately, the decision becomes easier as you expand your knowledge and visit several places. A Place for Mom has a video, How to Find the Best Assisted Living, that outlines the things to look for when researching assisted living, but it can be equally helpful to know exactly what not to do when searching for assisted living.

Along with the video, A Place For Mom has listed the top 8 mistakes people make when looking into assitied living. There are a lot of decisions you will have to make when it comes to choosing the perfect assisted living, so be sure to do your research and ask questions!!! Feel free to ask us for help! As an Elder Law attorney, we work closely with many assisted livings in the area and can provide some helpful information.

Click here for more information


Monday, January 21, 2013

Can A Special Needs Trust Pay for things such as Credit Card Bills or Security Deposits?

   Administering a "special needs" trust can be a challenge. The rules often seem vague, and they occasionally shift. What may seem like a simple question might actually involve layers of complexity. Sometimes expenditures might be permissible under the rules of, say, the Social Security Administration, but not acceptable to AHCCCS, the Arizona Medicaid agency -- or vice versa. Trustees work in an environment of many constantly-moving parts.

Take these two examples:

Example 1:  Being the trustee of a Self-Settled Special Needs Trust for a sister. Can you pay her credit card bills?

Maybe (don't you just love lawyers' answers?). Let's break the question down a little bit.

    First, identify the trust as "self-settled." That means the money once belonged to your sister (it might have been an inheritance, or a personal injury settlement, or her accumulated wealth before she became disabled). That also means the rules are somewhat more restrictive.

We will assume that the bills are for a credit card in her name alone. If the card belongs to someone else, the rules may be different. Not many special needs trust beneficiaries can qualify for a credit card; when they can, it can be a very useful way to get things paid for (as you will soon see).

The next question requires a look at the trust document itself. It might be that it prohibits payments like the one you would like to make. That would be uncommon, but not unheard of. We will assume that the trust does not expressly prohibit paying her credit card bills.

What benefits does your sister receive? Social Security Disability and Medicare: Not a problem.But if it is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and AHCCCS (Medicaid) there could be a problem.

    Next, we need to know what was charged to the credit card. Was it food or shelter? If it was used for meals at restaurants, or grocery shopping, or for utility bills, you probably do not want to pay the credit card bill from the trust. If you do (and assuming the trust permits it) then you will face a reduction of any SSI she receives, and possible loss of AHCCCS benefits.

Were the credit card bills for clothes, medical supplies, gasoline for her vehicle, even car repairs? There is probably no problem with paying the credit card statement. Even home repairs should be OK in most cases (just not rent, mortgage, utilities, etc. -- and the rules might be different if anyone else lives with your sister).

As you can see, what started out as a simple question turns out to have a lot of complexity. You might want to talk with a lawyer about your sister could use the credit card. When it works, though, it can be quite beneficial.

Example 2: Can a special needs trust pay the security deposit on a new apartment?

What an interesting question. We think the answer is probably "yes."

Once again we need to look at the trust document itself. Was it funded with your own money (like a personal injury settlement), or was the trust set up by a relative or friend with their own money? Is there language prohibiting payment for anything related to your apartment?

Assuming no trust language prohibits the payment, we can turn to the effect such a payment would have on your benefits. Social Security Disability and Medicare? Once again, no problem. SSI and AHCCCS/Medicaid? Your benefits might be reduced, but the payment can probably be made.

The key question is whether a "security deposit" is "rent." Arguably, it is not, rather it is an advance payment for cleaning. A special needs trust, even a self-settled special needs trust ,can pay for cleaning. Social Security's rules treat payment of "rent" as what's called "In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM)." This payment, we think, should not be characterized as ISM.

If it is not ISM, then it should have no effect on your SSI or your AHCCCS benefits. If it does, it might simply reduce your SSI payment (by the amount of the deposit, but capped at about $250). So long as you still get SSI it should not have any effect on your AHCCCS benefits.

Are these rules unnecessarily complicated? Yes. Does it sometimes end up costing more in legal fees to figure out what to do than it would to just pay the bills? Yes. Welcome to the complex world of Special Needs Trust Administration. Would it be possible to write simplified rules that allowed limited use of special needs trust funds while saving a bundle on administrative expenses? Yes, but please don't hold your breath while waiting for them.

 


Friday, January 11, 2013

New Scholarships in Georgia allowing Special Needs Children to attend Private schools with better care are changing lives!

http://www.daily-tribune.com/view/full_story/8961920/article-The-Georgia-Special-Needs-Scholarship-Program-is-changing-lives


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Speaking Engagement! Come learn about the new changes to the Veterans' Pension Benefits!

Patti will be speaking at the Benton House of Johns Creek about the new changes for 2013.

Learn about valuable information that can help you plan for this year!

Patti will be there from 6:30pm-7:30pm and will be availiable for questions after.

Refreshments provided


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The Elrod-Hill Law Firm,LLC assists clients with Estate Planning, Veterans Benefits, Medicaid, Elder Care Law, Probate, Special Needs Planning and Pet Trusts in the North Atlanta area including the counties of Dekalb, Gwinnett and Fulton.



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