Elder Law Update – October 2008 (Volume II)

1. Announcing a Webcast on Aging. It should be noted that the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) will host its first ever NAELA public webcast called “Aging in America: How to Plan for It”. Free registration is available at http://www.naela.org/.

2. VA Accreditation for Attorneys- Dull but Important Information. The Department of Veterans Affairs has released its new rules and regulations outlining how the new accreditation forms for attorneys are to be filed for those attorneys who prepare and prosecute claims for VA benefits on behalf of clients. Veterans can obtain free VA benefits assistance through the completion of an application from accredited veteran service organizations. Only accredited agents and attorneys may receive fees from veterans making claims or appeals provided in connection with representation. However, no organization or individual, including lawyers, can charge for the preparation, presentation and prosecution of a claim.

3. More on Reverse Mortgages- Law Changes. Recent federal law changes that go into effect October 1, 2008 increase the borrowing level on reverse mortgages. The national limit on the amount that a homeowner can borrow is $417,000. The limit can be increased to $625,000 in areas with high housing costs.The actual amount that a homeowner can borrow however is always independent on the age of the borrower, interest rates at the time, location, and the home’s value. At the present time, the current range for loan limits for reverse mortgages is approximately $200,000-$360,000. Also, under the new law, fees will be capped at 2% of the first $200,000 borrowed and 1% on the balance, with a maximum of fees of $6,000 in total. The law also prohibits lenders from requiring borrowers to purchase an annuity or other products as a pre-condition for getting the reverse mortgage.

4. Nursing Home Risks. The NY Times recently reported that more than 90% of nursing homes were cited for violations of federal health and safety standards. The article indicated that for-profit nursing homes are more likely to have problems than other types of nursing homes. Only 17% of nursing homes had deficiencies that caused actual harm or immediate jeopardy to patients. Problems reported included infected bedsores, medication mix-up, poor nutrition, and neglect of patients.

5. Scams, Again. The LA Times recently reported that the convicted mastermind of an investment scam that wiped out approximately $190,000,000 of retirees’ savings was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. During the trial, the prosecutors described the scheme in which seniors were invited to slick free lunch seminars at restaurants and hotels. At those meetings the seniors were given a chance to buy what was referred to as conservative “secured” notes with “guaranteed” returns. Be careful out there!

6. Virtual Doctor Visits May be Coming. Newsday recently reported that tele-health is a means of using technology to monitor persons more frequently in their homes and keep them in their homes longer. This consists of a “virtual” visit that can do almost everything a home visit can do, except touch the patient. The way it works is that after discharge from a hospital stay, the client (who may live alone or with a caregiver) will get a home patient statement that includes a video monitor, high resolution camera, blood pressure machine, stethoscope, pulse oximeter, and digital scale.

7. Medicare Advantage- Some Clinics Will Not Accept the Plan Timber J newspapers indicates that on January 1, 2009, Northern Minnesota healthcare providers will stop accepting some Medicare advantage insurance plans. This will affect a lot of seniors who must switch to another Medicare advantage option, or return to traditional Medicare to retain coverage for health services. Clinics had complained that collecting payments from the plans had been difficult.

8. Be Alert for Cognitive Decline- It Usually Does NOT Happen OvernightWe recently had a client bring their parent to the office in order to engage in some long term care planning. When the son brought his mother to his office and I began asking the mother some questions about what types of services she would like to have us perform for her, the mother sat there with a blank stare and was unresponsive. I asked the son how long she had been like this. The son replied that she had been like this only recently. That is, he said that she started to decline about a year ago. I informed the son that I would be unable to help the mother prepare long term care documentation, such as wills and trusts, because she lacked the cognitive capacity to create these documents. I said that I could help him with obtaining guardianship if he could obtain a report from his mother’s doctor that confirmed my suspicions that she lacked the requisite mental capacity to do any estate planning or long term care planning. The moral of the story is- be on the look out for decline in those around you. Sometimes when we are close to our loved ones and around them all the time, we tend to accept and often ignore declines in their mental capabilities. Stay alert for this. If a senior declines to the point where mental capacity is gone, options for protecting the senior and the senior’s assets for the senior’s future usage and the potential beneficiaries of his or her estate may be lost. Don’t be in denial, be realistic about what is happening to your loved one. Keep your eyes and ears alert for slippage in their abilities and then seek peace of mind by consulting with your elder care professionals.

9. Elder Care Planning A recent Wall Street Journal describes creating an estate plan that is especially built for special needs persons. Likewise, in the area of long term care, we need to create estate plans that are built for the long term care of most of our senior clients. Most of our seniors want to ensure that their assets last as long as possible for them and also provide some of their assets to pass to their loved ones through inheritance. In order to accomplish all of the above, long term care planning is required. It is preferable to do this early on in the elder care journey rather than in a crisis mode. Again, we can protect more assets andprovide better continuity in your care with pre-planning than relying solely on last minute crisis planning.

P.S. Please contact our office for more information. You can reach us at (847) 563-4887. We would be happy to assist you with all matters pertaining to your VA benefits planning, estate planning, Medicaid planning needs, and long term care and nursing home needs.

P.S.S. On May 15, 2008, I conducted a workshop regarding VA benefits in Stone Park, Illinois. The response was strong. If you would like to make reservations for future VA workshops, please contact our office at (847)292-1220.

Also, don’t miss our other workshop: “5 Step Plan – How to Get Medicaid Coverage for your Nursing Home Care… Without Selling your Home or Leaving your Family Without a Dime” set for the following dates. Please contact our office at (847) 563-4887 to register.

October 29, 2008 at 4:00 pm

November 5, 2008 at 4:00 pm

November 19, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Call (847) 292 1220 to make a reservation in our training room.

•- You don’t want to miss this workshop!

The “3 Phase” Lawyers

Legal Counsel Assisting You in the 3 Phases of Your Life:

– Maturing Years – Will, Trust, Taxes, and Asset Protection

– Senior Years – Long Term Care, Medicaid, and Nursing Home Protection

– Post Death Years – Estate, Probate, and Trust Administration

“Educate to Motivate”

Anthony B. Ferraro
Attorney-CPA
The Law Offices of Anthony B. Ferraro, LLC
Columbia Centre I
5600 N River Road, Suite 764
Rosemont, IL 60018
PH(847)292-1220
abferrarolaw@abferrarolaw.com
abferrarolaw.com

Note: Pursuant to federal regulations imposed on practitioners who render tax advice (“Circular 230”), we are required to advise you that any tax advice contained herein is not intended or written to be used for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed by the Internal Revenue Service.

This document is for discussion purposes only and is not intended to be, nor should it be, considered as legal advice. You should never attempt Medicaid planning, Estate planning, Probate, or Estate and Trust Administration without the advice of competent legal counsel.