Top 10 Elder Law decisions of 2016

Below, in chronological order, is ElderLawAnswers’ annual roundup of the top 10 elder law decisions for the year just ended, as measured by the number of “unique page views” of our summary of the case.

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1. Medicaid Applicant’s Irrevocable Trust Is an Available Resource Because Trustee Can Make Distributions

An Alabama appeals court rules that a Medicaid applicant’s special needs trust is an available resource because the trustee had discretion to make payments under the trust. Alabama Medicaid Agency v. Hardy (Ala. Civ. App., No. 2140565, Jan. 29, 2016). To read the full summary, click here.

2. Trust Is an Available Asset Because Trustees Have Discretion to Make Distributions

A New York appeals court rules that a Medicaid applicant’s trust is an available asset because the trustees have discretion to make distributions to her. In the Matter of Frances Flannery v. Zucker (N.Y. Sup. Ct., App. Div., 4th Dept., No. TP 15-01033, Feb. 11, 2016). To read the full summary, click here.

3. Medicaid Applicant Who Transferred Assets in Exchange for Promissory Note May Proceed with Suit Against State

A U.S. district court holds that a Medicaid applicant who was denied Medicaid benefits after transferring assets to her children in exchange for a promissory note may proceed with her claim against the state because Medicaid law confers a private right of action and the Eleventh Amendment does not bar the claim. Ansley v. Lake (U.S. Dist. Ct., W.D. Okla., No. CIV-14-1383-D, March 9, 2016). To read the full summary, click here.

4. Mass. Court Bridles at Allegations in Request for Reconsideration in Irrevocable Trust Case

In a strongly worded response to a Medicaid applicant’s request for reconsideration of an unsuccessful appeal involving an irrevocable trust, a Massachusetts trial court strikes the applicant’s pleadings after it takes great exception to the tone of the argument.  Daley v. Sudders (Mass.Super.Ct., No.15-CV-0188-D, March 28, 2016). To read the full summary, click here.

5. Caretaker Exception Denied Because Child Did Not Provide Continuous Care

A New Jersey appeals court determines that the caretaker child exception does not apply to a Medicaid applicant who transferred her house to her daughter because the daughter did not provide continuous care for the two years before the Medicaid applicant entered a nursing home. M.K. v. Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (N.J. Super. Ct., App. Div., No. A-0790-14T3, May 13, 2016). To read the full summary, click here.

6. State Can Place Lien on Medicaid Recipient’s Life Estate After Recipient Dies

An Ohio appeals court rules that a deceased Medicaid recipient’s life estate does not extinguish at death for the purposes of Medicaid estate recovery, so the state may place a lien on the property. Phillips v. McCarthy (Ohio Ct. App., 12th Dist., No. CA2015-08-01, May 16, 2016). To read the full summary, click here.

7. Attorney Liable to Third-Party Beneficiary of Will for Legal Malpractice

Virginia’s highest court rules that an intended third-party beneficiary of a will may sue the attorney who drafted the will for legal malpractice. Thorsen v. Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Va., No. 150528, June 2, 2016). To read the full summary, click here.

8. Nursing Home’s Fraudulent Transfer Claim Against Resident’s Sons Can Move Forward

A U.S. district court rules that a nursing home can proceed with its case against the sons of a resident who transferred the resident’s funds to themselves because the fraudulent transfer claim survived the resident’s death. Kindred Nursing Centers East, LLC v. Estate of Barbara Nyce (U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Vt., No. 5:16-cv-73, June 21, 2016). To read the full summary, click here.

9. Irrevocable Trust Is Available Asset Because Medicaid Applicant Retained Some Control

New Hampshire’s highest court rules that a Medicaid applicant’s irrevocable trust is an available asset even though the applicant was not a beneficiary of the trust because the applicant retained a degree of discretionary authority over the trust assets. Petition of Estate of Thea Braiterman (N.H., No. 2015-0395, July 12, 2016). To read the full summary, click here.

10. NY Court Rules that  Spouse’s Refusal to Contribute to Care Creates Implied Contract to Repay Benefits

A New York trial court enters judgment against a woman who refused to contribute to her spouse’s nursing home expenses, finding that because she had adequate resources to do so, an implied contract was created between her and the state entitling the state to repayment of Medicaid benefits it paid on the spouse’s behalf. Banks v. Gonzalez (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Pt. 5, No. 452318/15, Aug. 8, 2016). To read the full summary, click here.

Feel Free to contact me to see how any of these decisions may affect your personal situation.

-Brian A. Raphan, Esq. 

Payments to Caregiver Subject Medicaid Applicant to Penalty Period

Reversing a lower court, a Michigan appeals court rules that under state regulations a Medicaid applicant’s payments to a non-relative caregiver subjected the applicant to a penalty period because the caregiver did not have a written contract and a doctor had not recommended the service be provided. Jensen v. Department of Human Services (Mich. Ct. App., No. 319098, Feb. 19, 2015).

Jason Jensen hired a non-relative caregiver for his grandmother, Betty Jensen, who suffered from dementia. Mr. Jensen and the caregiver had an informal agreement and no contract was signed, but Mr. Jensen paid the caregiver a total of $19,000 from Ms. Jensen’s assets over the course of the months she worked for Ms. Jensen. When Ms. Jensen’s condition worsened, she entered a nursing home and applied for Medicaid. The state established a penalty period, holding that the payments to the caregiver were an unlawful transfer. Ms. Jensen died before the penalty period ended.

Mr. Jensen appealed, but the state upheld the decision. Under state regulations, payments to caregivers are considered “divestments” and transfers for less than fair market value unless there is a signed contract and a doctor has recommended in writing that the services be provided, among other requirements. Mr. Jensen appealed to court, and the trial court reversed, holding that the regulation requiring that a contract be in writing applied only to relative caregivers. The state appealed.

The Michigan Court of Appeals reverses, holding that the trial court improperly interpreted the regulations and that the penalty period was appropriate. According to the court, because there was no written contract and no written doctor’s recommendation for the services, the payments to the caregiver were a divestment. The court notes that “it does not appear from the factual record that [Mr.] Jensen overpaid for [the caregiver’s] services, or hired [the caregiver] unnecessarily. If we were not bound by the plain language of [the regulations], and were we permitted de novo review of the lower tribunals’ factual considerations, we would reach quite a different result.”

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IN MEDICAID PLANNING

Feel free to contact me with any Medicaid Planning questions,

Regards,

Brian A. Raphan

Son Must Pay for Mother’s Care Under Filial Responsibility

A Pennsylvania appeals court holds that a son is required to pay for his mother’s care under the state’s filial responsibility law even though the mother does not have outstanding medical bills and the son claims he had an abusive childhood. Eori v. Eori (Pa. Super. Ct., No. 1342 WDA 2014, Aug. 7, 2015).


Joseph Eori is attorney-in-fact for his mother, Dolly Eori, who requires 24-hour care.  Ms. Eori lives with Mr. Eori, and her medical and caregiving expenses exceed her income.

Mr. Eori filed a complaint on behalf of his mother seeking filial support from his brother, Joshua Ryan. Mr. Ryan objected, arguing, among other things, that his mother was not indigent because she did not have outstanding medical bills and that he had an abusive childhood. Pennsylvania’s filial responsibility law negates the support obligation if the parent abandoned the child for a 10-year period. The trial court granted the petition for support, and Mr. Ryan appealed.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirms, holding that Mr. Ryan is required to provide support to his mother. The court agrees with the trial court’s decision that the filial responsibility law doesn’t require a showing of unpaid bills or liabilities to justify a claim. In addition, the court affirms the trial court’s ruling that while Mr. Ryan may not have had an ideal childhood, there was no evidence that his mother abandoned him.

For the full text of this decision, click here.

To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients

The need to protect your assets is always at hand. Planning for long-term care with an elder law attorney can help protect your assets for the in home spouse and heirs. Medicaid Planning or Life Care Planning helps to ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible long-term care and the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. The following article brings this issue to light.

Article via The New York Times: 

Photo credit: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients.

Lillian Palermo tried to prepare for the worst possibilities of aging. An insurance executive with a Ph.D. in psychology and a love of ballroom dancing, she arranged for her power of attorney and health care proxy to go to her husband, Dino, eight years her junior, if she became incapacitated. And in her 80s, she did.

Mr. Palermo, who was the lead singer in a Midtown nightclub in the 1960s when her elegant tango first caught his eye, now regularly rolls his wife’s wheelchair to the piano at the Catholic nursing home in Manhattan where she ended up in 2010 as dementia, falls and surgical complications took their toll. He sings her favorite songs, feeds her home-cooked Italian food, and pays a private aide to be there when he cannot.

Lack of Personal Care Agreement Makes Reimbursements to Relatives an Improper Transfer

Reversing a trial court, a Louisiana appeals court determines that a nursing home resident improperly transferred close to $50,000 to his caregiver nephew and the nephew’s wife because the payments were not made pursuant to a valid personal care agreement.  David v. State of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (La. Ct. App., 1st, No. 2014 CA 0791, Dec. 23, 2014).

Brian Raphan, P.C.

Widley David entered a Louisiana nursing home in 2008.  Between 2008 and 2010, Mr. David wrote six checks to his nephew and his nephew’s wife totaling $49,195.  According to Mr. David, the checks were intended to repay his closest living relatives for the daily care that they provided him in the nursing home.  When Mr. David applied for Medicaid in December 2010, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) assessed a nearly 15-month penalty period due to the transfers.

Mr. David did not appeal the initial imposition of a penalty period, but in July 2011 he requested a change in status from private pay to full Medicaid pay.  DHH denied this request, stating that pursuant to the initial denial, Mr. David was ineligible for Medicaid until January 2012.  Mr. David appealed the denial of his change in status, arguing that the payments to his relatives were reimbursement for care provided and not to qualify for Medicaid.  DHH claimed that the payments would be valid only if made pursuant to a written personal care agreement, which Mr. David had never executed.  After a trial court found in favor of Mr. David, the state appealed.

The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal reverses the trial court, finding that the lack of a personal care agreement made the transfers to the relatives improper.  The court states that a “payback arrangement or personal care agreement was necessary to validate this alleged arrangement; however, Mr. David did not offer any type of tangible or documentary evidence of an agreement, contract, or Personal Care Agreement to substantiate and validate his argument. The record is void of any evidence that complied with Medicaid eligibility requirements to validate the resource transfers.”

To read the full text of this decision, click here.

To learn more about Medicaid Planning click here.

Regards, Brian

5 Tips for Arranging and Paying for a Home Health Aide:

-By Emily Garnett, Associate Attorney at Brian A. Raphan, P.C.

Finding oneself or a family member in need of home care can be a tough pill to swallow. It is often difficult to accept that you or a loved one is no longer able to safely do many of the activities of daily living that you once could. At that point, it may be time to bring in a home health aide for assistance with a wide variety of activities of daily living.

1. How to Arrange Help and Payment: Many people choose to privately pay for home health aides. If you choose to go this route, you can utilize a long-term home health care program (LTHHCP). These are agencies accredited by the state that provide home health aides. They manage the staffing and payroll. However, you can also choose to select aides that are privately paid, and work outside of an LTHHCP agency. For these aides, you would have to manage staffing and payroll issues yourself, or utilize the expertise of an elder law attorney or geriatric care manager to manage these details.

Medicaid Planning

2. Using Medicaid to Pay: If you are unable to privately pay for home care, you have the option of applying for Medicaid to obtain coverage for long-term home care. It is advised that you work with an elder law attorney or other professional to facilitate this process, as it can be complicated, and the regulations are frequently changing. In order to qualify for Medicaid, the applicant must meet certain requirements for income and assets. The current Medicaid asset limit is $14,550.00, and the monthly income limit is $809.00. Unlike nursing home Medicaid, there is no look-back period for community Medicaid, meaning that Medicaid is not going to investigate past money transfers like they would for an application for nursing home coverage. There are several ways to address the income and asset limits required for Medicaid acceptance, the most common being the use of pooled trusts to shelter those funds. Pooled trusts are frequently used to meet the Medicaid spend-down, which is the requirement that an applicant reduce his or her available income so that it remains under the Medicaid limit.

3. Shelter your Income: Once an individual applies for Medicaid coverage, he or she can join a third party pooled trust to shelter the excess income and meet the spend-down. These trusts allow the individual to use the funds sheltered in the trust for personal needs outside of the Medicaid coverage, including expenses like rent, utilities, and phone bills. If this arrangement is not made, the applicant runs the risk of rejection by Medicaid or having to privately pay for some part of his or her home care each month.

4. Enrollment for Managed Long Term Care: Once you have applied for and been approved for Medicaid, you will work with your elder law attorney or specialist to enroll in a managed long-term care program (MLTC), which will provide home care services. The first step in this process is assessment by a new program, the Conflict-Free Eligibility and Enrollment Center (CFEEC), sometimes also referred to as “Maximus”. This assessment takes about two hours and provides a determination to Medicaid that the consumer is eligible for home care services. At that point, the consumer selects a managed long term care plan to enroll in. The MLTC plan then schedules a second assessment, also lasting about two hours, in which the specific care needs of the consumer are assessed. At the conclusion of this assessment, the nurse performing the assessment will submit the information to Medicaid, who will ultimately determine the number of hours of home care needed each day by the consumer. This process is very time-sensitive, so work closely with your Medicaid attorney assisting with the application process, to avoid costly and unnecessary delays.

5. Keeping Your Ongoing Benefits: Once the application process is complete, your home care will likely start on or around the first of the following month. At that point, your obligations as a consumer are to maintain the income and asset limits, including utilization of a pooled trust if needed. You will be required to annually re-certify with Medicaid that you have maintained these levels. Should you have questions at that point, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Medicaid planning attorney, rather than risk losing your Medicaid benefits. It is worth noting, however, that occasionally delays arise in various points of the application process through no fault of the attorney or applicant. Should you find yourself in such a position, understand that these issues do arise, and make sure to cooperate with your attorney or specialist’s advocacy efforts towards resolution.

Emily Garnett, Esq.

The Law Offices of Brian A. Raphan, P.C. 7 Penn Plaza, Suite 810 New York, NY 10001 T: (212) 268-8200

“Helping Senior New Yorkers for over 25 Years”

Nursing Home’s Claim Has Priority over State’s Medicaid Claim

A New York appeals court rules that a nursing home that had a claim against the guardianship account of a resident is entitled to reimbursement from the account before the state, which had a claim for Medicaid reimbursement against the resident’s estate. In re: Shannon (N.Y. Sup. Ct., App. Div., 1st Dept., No. 12218, 12219, 92560/08, June 17, 2014).

Brian Raphan, P.C.Eastchester Rehabilitation & Health Care Center applied for a guardian for resident Edna Shannon and also applied for Medicaid on her behalf. The court appointed a guardian, and the state granted Ms. Shannon Medicaid benefits. The nursing home filed a claim with the guardian for services provided Ms. Shannon that were not covered by Medicaid. The court approved the sale of Ms. Shannon’s home, and the money went into the guardianship account.

After Ms. Shannon died, the state filed a claim against her estate for reimbursement of Medicaid expenses. The nursing home argued its claim accrued before the state’s claim because the state did not have a lien against Ms. Shannon’s home. The state argued that it was a preferred creditor, and the trial court agreed. The nursing home appealed.

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, reverses, holding that the nursing home is entitled to reimbursement from the guardianship account before any funds pass to the estate. According to the court, the state had a priority claim only against the estate, while the nursing home’s “claim accrued during the decedent’s lifetime, against the guardianship account, with no competing creditors.” One justice dissents, arguing the state should have had priority.

For the full text of this decision, go to:https://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_04452.htm

For a free download of Medicaid’s Asset Transfer Rules click here.

Regards, Brian

http://www.RaphanLaw.com

New Federal Regulations May Increase Pay for Home Care Workers, But Could Harm Seniors and People with Disabilities…

A federal regulation scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2015, could force employers to pay previously exempt caregivers the federal minimum wage and time-and-a-half for overtime.  While this may seem like a good deal for the caregivers, it could result in cutbacks to services for seniors and people with disabilities if states limit caregiver hours in response to the new regulations.

medicaid planning, appeal

Congress initially passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1938 to give most workers a guaranteed minimum wage and overtime protection.  The original FLSA did not apply to many domestic workers hired directly by households, so in 1974 Congress amended the FLSA to cover many people who work in private households.  However, the 1974 amendment did not apply to “companionship” workers who assist elderly patients or people with disabilities, and it also stated that live-in domestic workers were not entitled to overtime pay.

In 2013, the Department of Labor issued a final regulation altering these rules for the first time since 1974.  The new regulation, which goes into effect on January 1st, narrows the definition of “companionship” services and requires third-party employers like home health care agencies to meet all minimum wage and overtime laws for all employees.

Under the new rules, an employee qualifies as a “companionship” worker only if he spends less than 20 percent of his work time assisting a senior or person with disabilities with activities of daily living or instrumental activities of daily living.  In addition, if the worker provides any medically necessary services, then he is not engaged in “companionship” work.  In all cases, if the employee is not considered a companion, then he must be paid the minimum age and must receive overtime pay.  These rules apply only to workers employed by the senior, person with disabilities or her household.  If the worker is employed by a third party, or in many cases if the worker is employed by both the person with disabilities and a third party (like a state agency), then he will always be subject to minimum wage and overtime rules, even if he is a live-in employee who would typically not be subject to overtime rules.

Although the new regulations could mean more money for caregivers who may not currently receive minimum wage or overtime protection, there could also be some negative consequences for consumers and caregivers.  Since many state agencies are now going to be considered third-party employers, they may implement their own regulations limiting the number of hours that caregivers can work in order to avoid being out of compliance with these new federal rules.  This could lead to reduced services for people who need them and fewer hours for caregivers.

According to an advocacy fact sheet from the National Senior Citizens Law Center, only California has addressed these concerns in its 2014-2015 budget, which leaves most seniors and people with disabilities in limbo as the January 1st implementation deadline approaches.

For more on this complicated problem, you can view an assortment of materials on the Department of Labor’s website here and download the National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services’ toolkit here.

Regards, Brian

Maybe it’s time for a geriatric care manager

Geriatric care

Why do we hear so much about geriatric care management these days? It’s because there are so many benefits they can provide to seniors and care givers. Let’s first clarify the term: A professional Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) is a health and human services specialist who helps families who are caring for older relatives. The GCM is trained and experienced in any of several fields related to care management, including nursing, gerontology, social work, psychology, and logistics of health care and often finances relating to the elderly. They are trained to assess, plan, coordinate, monitor and provide services for the elderly and their families. Although not lawyers, they are often aware of legal issues elders may be soon facing.

The benefits to you, the child or care giver of the elder range from saving time (vetting out various needs), saving money (knowing financial pitfalls of some decisions in advance), making better care decisions (with insight from someone who has seen it all) and most importantly –reducing stress.  The stress of being alone in the decision making process, relief of now being informed about your various options and what may be right for the specific needs of the elder, ranging from doctor decisions, how to provide care, assisted living, home care and nursing care options. Doing it alone takes an enormous amount of time, energy, resources and self reliance.

According to Gladys Harris Geriatric Care Manager of The Olive Group, you may need a Geriatric Care Manager if:

•    A person has limited or no family support available

•    Family has just become involved with helping the individual and needs direction regarding available senior services

•    A person has multiple medical or psychological issues

•    A person is unable to live safely in his / her current environment

•    Family is either “burned out” or confused about care solutions

•    Family has a limited time and / or expertise in dealing with loved one’s chronic care needs

•    Family is at odds regarding care decisions

•    Individual is not pleased with current care providers and requires advocacy

•    Individual is confused regarding his / her own financial and / or legal situation

•    Family needs education and / or direction in dealing with behaviors associated with dementia

Gladys is a recommended resource of ours and helps families and elders in New Jersey. They offer a unique combination of compassion, knowledge, a ‘can-do’ attitude and a wide range of services which also include:

Solution Focused Counseling: Life transitions are a common reason for counseling. We focus on empowering individuals to find solutions in their life by figuring out what a person’s goals are, and supporting them to find ways to achieve those goals.

Care Coordination: Our holistic assessment includes a physical, psychological and social functioning evaluation of the older adult, as well as a home safety inspection. Based on the assessment, we will develop a customized client care plan to identify private and public resources available to support the older adult. We coordinate the support systems needed to keep the older adult safe and happy at home.

Wellness Monitoring: Regular visits with the older adult to help ensure that they receive the best care available. During our visits we ensure older adults are receiving help with things that they want done, computer skills, organize photos, plan family events, etc.

Accessibility Issue Resolution: Aging-in-place often requires making changes to the home to help maintain independence.  This may be de-cluttering, home improvements, home safety inspection

Relocation Services: We support families during transitions from home to another location or facility.   These services include cleaning, de-cluttering, downsizing, and setting up in the older adult’s new home.

Cost savings is also a key component to good geriatric care management. You can learn more about it and find out more about the range of services by clicking here: www.TheOliveGroup.llc.com

Regards,

Brian

New: Visiting Lawyer Services for Elder New Yorkers

Visiting Lawyer Services

Why should the elderly that aren’t as mobile as they used to be, or live in an assisted living facility or are even at home wheelchair bound, not have easy access to the same professional legal care as others? Well, they should. And now they do.

Visiting Lawyer Services (VLS) is now available to New Yorkers that are homebound or unable to travel to a lawyer. With VLS our lawyers come to you. There’s no longer a need to coordinate aides, transfers or transportation as you won’t need it The same practice areas of elder law firm are the same available with VLS.  Most of the services that we handle in our office can be handled at your place. For example; signing of your Will, Living Will, Health Care Proxy, revising a Will, Estate Planning, Medicaid Planning or setting up a Trust. If witnesses are needed for signing documents we also arrange them to be with us as well. Other family members or loved ones may be present as well.

Visiting Lawyer Services

You remain in the comfort of your home, apartment or nursing facility and we’ll bring all the necessary documents. This has been very helpful for elder couples–as is often the case with elders, one spouse may be healthy and agile yet the other quite limited.

‘Not being burdened by travel time or hindered by physical ability also allows seniors to focus better on their legal needs. We’ve taken our hands-on approach, compassion and legal prowess to the next level’

For more information on how our Visiting Lawyer Services can help, feel free to call me at 212-268-8200. – Brian

http://www.VisitingLawyerServices.com

info@raphanlaw.com