Posted by: BlogMaster | March 29, 2015

Planning for your Special Needs Child: The ABLE Act of 2014

Posted by: BlogMaster | March 14, 2015

Alphabet Soup 2015: Special Needs Planning

If you managed to decipher the Alphabet Soup of Agency and Services Naming in 2014, brace yourself for the new naming and acronym challenges taking effect in 2015.

Medicaid services for persons who are intellectually disabled is generally overseen by the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). As with Medicaid for seniors for home care and nursing home services, Managed Medicaid is now part of OPWDD.

As the names of these programs keep changing, the end result is that advocates – legal, parents, and providers –- have expressed concerns as we enter 2015.Alphabet Soup 1

What was previously called “CSS and Self Direction” is now known as “Self Direction with Budget and Employer Authority”. The program – which encourages families to create an individualized plan for services (and, in theory, for housing) for their adult intellectually disabled child – is part of NY State’s “People First Waiver” for Managed Medicaid with CMS, the federal governing agency.  

Applications for initial services and planning go through the “Front Door”, which means that the applicant’s family must contact their local OPWDD regional office, now called the DDRO (formerly known as DDSO). Pay special attention to this hearty mix of acronyms, which are not yet updated on the OPWDD’s website at www.opwdd.ny.gov.

My professional advice is that the best source of information for New York State families is the New York Self Determination Coalition (http://nyselfd.org) and their online manual. This is a volunteer group of advocate parents.

What is the best role for a qualified special needs attorney in your planning?

The special needs attorney can help ensure that you understand and are accessing the appropriate resources and benefits (including SSI) for your disabled family member – regardless of their specific impairment.

And only an attorney can prepare a special needs trust. This is still the best option to preserve an inheritance for a family member, because Medicaid is expected to reduce services, particularly in the area of housing. There are many ways to write your wishes for managing the special needs trust into your Will or other estate planning documents, such as your own living trust.

Your family’s and your child’s situations are unique. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise or try to convince you to settle for cookie-cutter planning.

All planning can and should be customized to meet your own family’s needs. Contact my office to arrange a consultation with me, as a special needs attorney practicing on Long Island.

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Posted by: BlogMaster | March 1, 2015

Medicaid and Elder Care Law Updates – Part 2

My previous blog post summarized some of the changes and updates for Medicaid. We continue this week.

elder law attorney long island ny

New York’s Managed Long Term Care Medicaid (MLTC) introduces two new requirements.

  1. All home care applicants residing in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and in New York City (and eventually including upstate New York) require a “conflict-free screening” or evaluation performed by a New York State designated agency called Medicaid Choice. The ‘screen’, to be performed by a nurse, must certify that the applicant will need home care services for at least 120 days – the minimum duration required by MLTC for providing home care, adult day care, and similar services. The timing for scheduling your conflict free screen is crucial to the prompt start of services. Contact my office about the timing element of submission of the Medicaid application, the pooled trust joinder agreement and application, and the conflict-free assessment.
  2. New York State is also rolling-out another aspect of MLTC called FIDA (Fully Integrated Dual Advantage). FIDA will allow an additionally certified MLTC/FIDA agency to coordinate both Medicare services (including doctors) and Medicaid (home aides and senior day care). This may not be necessary for seniors whose Medicare coverage is supplemented with a retiree plan and whose family is involved in day-to-day care and medical decisions. If these conditions are met, the senior must “opt out”. But for Medicaid recipients who lack funds for a supplemental Medicare policy and/or have no family to assist with care coordination, transportation to doctors, etc., FIDA may be the key to successfully remaining in their home. Only an elder law attorney can counsel you on this legal choice.

Remember – Medicaid can be an essential service if you are ill, impaired, and lack sufficient income or resources to pay for proper care. Contact my office to arrange a consultation with me, as an elder law attorney practicing on Long Island.

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Posted by: BlogMaster | February 16, 2015

Medicaid and Elder Care Law Updates – Part 1

This is the first of several blogs to bring you up-to-date on important changes in elder law, special needs planning and estate planning.

Medicaid and elder care law update

Medicaid and Elder Care Law  Long Island NY

If you need New York State Medicaid for home aides or nursing home care, you will need the help of an elder law attorney. Please note that a non-legal advocate is not qualified to give you the proper guidance and advice to navigate this increasingly complex process.

What is involved?

Selection of a managed long term care agency (MLTC), assessment of services, decisions about service coordination (called FIDA), and whether and how to correctly opt out. The language of Medicaid is difficult for you to understand, as the consumer. Only an elder law attorney is qualified to counsel you on key legal decisions that will impact your future and your family’s.

Spousal refusal is still legal in 2015, but Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget has once again proposed eliminating spousal refusal for home care/adult day care Medicaid. Spousal refusal occurs when one spouse requires Medicaid services but the other spouse will remain at home or in assisted living without Medicaid. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of spousal refusal requires an elder care attorney.

New York State Medicaid withdrew a directive for home care income budgeting, which is affecting the monthly income kept by a married Medicaid home care recipient. The policy could have forced seniors into nursing homes.

Medicaid’s decision to revert to the previous policy now means that a married couple with one spouse receiving home care can deposit the Medicaid recipient’s income exceeding $825 per month into a Pooled Community Trust. The couple may still be able to retain the non-Medicaid spouse’s income, invoking spousal refusal if necessary. But this level of legal analysis should only be done by an elder law attorney.

Contact my office to arrange a consultation with me, as an elder law attorney practicing on Long Island.

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Posted by: BlogMaster | February 7, 2015

Still Alice: Candid Look at the Devastation of Alzheimer’s

On the occasion of the film release of “Still Alice”, based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name, I am re-publishing my 2009 review from Beth’s Bookshelf blog. 

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bpa_still-alice-cover-1

Still Alice [Paperback] by Lisa Genova (Gallery. Original edition Jan. 2009)

Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease most often associated with the elderly.  The disease can erase a lifetime of memories, family names and faces, and in some situations, cause aimless wandering, misplaced belongings, as well as loss of any sense of time and perspective.

But it’s not only the aged who are affected.

When the disease occurs in younger persons, ages 40 to 60’s, it is called ‘early-onset Alzheimer’s’. Although less common, early-onset Alzheimer’s can proceed more aggressively to destroy the mind and body.

Still Alice, a compelling novel by Lisa Genova, a Harvard neuroscientist, is the fictional tale of Dr. Alice Howland, a fifty year old psychology and linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Author Genova traces Alice’s descent into dementia, written from Alice’s perspective.

In each chapter, the story charts, month by month, the original diagnosis through the almost complete loss of memory.  In an early scene, before seeking a medical opinion, Alice goes running on her usual route into Harvard Square past the Charles Hotel and the Kennedy School of Government. She suddenly finds herself lost, unable to return home. “She wanted to continue walking but stood frozen instead. She didn’t know where she was. She looked back across the street…the corridor, the hotel, the stores, the illogically meandering streets. She knew she was in Harvard Square, but she didn’t know which way was home.”

In the end, everything in the family changes. Youngest daughter, Lydia – with whom Alice had a strained relationship after Lydia rejected college and a traditional career path – chooses acting instead, becoming “the actress”. Eldest daughter, Anne, becomes “the mother” after she gives birth to twins. And Alice’s husband, John, also a Harvard professor, becomes “the man.”

Yes, this is a novel – but what makes it special is that it is written as if in Alice’s own voice. We read about her innermost feelings and growing frenzy as she struggles to remember words, faces and locations.

Still Alice allows us to bear witness to heartbreaking – and frightening – events that lead Alice, towards the end of the book, to tell her husband, “I remember I used to be very smart…I miss myself.”

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Posted by: BlogMaster | January 31, 2015

Save the dates: Elder Care Law Seminars by Beth Polner Abrahams

You and your family could be impacted by recent and upcoming changes to New York State Elder Care laws.

To help you stay up-to-date, Beth Polner Abrahams will present “Elder Care Law and What You Must Know” seminars this Spring at four Long Island school districts, as listed below. Please plan to attend at a location convenient to you and be sure to introduce yourself to Beth.

For details including whether a seminar is free or fee-based, please contact the sponsoring school district.

Beth will answer audience questions in a Q&A following the presentation.

Westbury Public Schools Adult Continuing Education
March 23, 2015 from 6:30 – 8:30pm
Westbury High School
1 Post Road, Old Westbury, NY
Call for info:  516-876-5102

Glen Cove High School Adult Education
March 24, 2015 from 7 – 9pm
Glen Cove High School
150 Dsoris Lane, Glen Cove, NY
Call for info: 516-801-7001

Uniondale Continuing Adult Education
March 30, 2015 – Time to be announced
Uniondale High School
933 Goodrich Street, Uniondale, NY
Call for info: 516-560-8891

Northport School District Continuing Education
April 20, 2015 from 7 – 9pm
Northport UFSD Office of Community Services
158 Laurel Avenue, Northport, NY
Call for info: 631-262-6650

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Posted by: BlogMaster | October 24, 2014

How Powerful is Your Financial Power of Attorney?

An important but difficult question to ask yourself: What happens if you become mentally infirm due to advanced age or disability, and you can no longer manage your own financial affairs?  

The answer: If you have not designated someone to have the legal authority to handle these matters when you are unable to, your bill paying, banking, taxes, business, support for family and/or dependents, investment decisions and more will be left unattended. Period.

The solution: Engage a qualified attorney to prepare a New York Statutory Power of Attorney for you before this happens.  In 2009 and 2010, the New York State Legislature changed the power of attorney law to protect you.  Please note that you cannot purchase this power of attorney document from a stationery store – and you do need a lawyer to prepare the document.  

The advantages: Legal protections are built into a properly written power of attorney

Legal protections: The authority of your power of attorney – known as your “agent” – to act on your behalf does not begin until you ask him or her, or until a medical professional – whether your treating doctor, nurse, social worker or other medical professional – determines that you lack the mental capacity to manage your affairs.  When it is time for your designated agent to act on your behalf, he or she must then sign the document in front of a notary public. 

The law also permits Medicaid and estate tax planning by your agent with a properly drafted power of attorney with the newest part of the document called the Statutory Gift Rider.   

Cost-effectiveness of taking action now: The legal fee for creating a properly prepared power of attorney is far less than the costly consequences of not preparing the document.  What happens if you become mentally infirm or disabled without a power of attorney? Your family will have to spend thousands of dollars for a legal guardianship proceeding in court – and this is surely not how you want them to spend their money.

Duration of the power of attorney document: The document you sign now will still be valid into the future because the law prevents financial institutions from saying it is ‘stale’ or ‘too old’ or ‘not our bank’s form.’ If you created a power of attorney at any time in the past, it’s still valid.

However, we advise a “legal check up” by a qualified attorney to review your existing document (and all of your estate planning documents) to make sure it still meets your legal needs now and in the future. 

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Beth Polner Abrahams is speaking on “Elder Care Law and What You Must Know” around Long Island this month.

The class is sponsored by several school districts.
Check with the district near you about event details and whether the class is Free or Fee.
 
South Huntington School District Adult Education
October 7, 2014 from 7pm to 9 pm
Walt Whitman High School, Room 525
North Wing, facing Jericho Turnpike
Pre-register: 631-812-3000.  Free with pre-registration.
 
Glen Cove High School Adult Education
October 8, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm
Glen Cove High School, Room 131
150 Dsoris Lane, Glen Cove, NY  
Info: 516-801-7001
 
Cold Spring Harbor Central School District Adult Education
October 15, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm 
Cold Spring Harbor High School, Community Center Board Room
75 Goose Hill Road, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 
Pre-register: 631-367-5905
Free with preregistration
 
Northport School District Continuing Education
October 21, 2010 from 7pm to 9pm 
Northport UFSD Office of Community Services
158 Laurel Avenue, Northport, NY
Info: 631-262-6650
 
Other speaking appearances
“Sandwiched In: To Mediate or Litigate?” 
Learn about mediation as a non-court alternative to resolving family disputes. 
Experience a mock mediation.  
Port Washington Public Library, 1 Library Drive, Port Washington NY
October 17, 2014 at 12pm to 2pm
Beth’s co-panelists are Harriette Steinberg, Esq. and Elizabeth Pollina Donlin, Esq.  
Info: 516-883-4400
 
Special Needs Trusts  and Planning – and 17A Guardianship for Your Developmentally Disabled Child
At “Fun Fall Festival” for Special Needs Families
Presented by the Head Injury Association
October 25, 2014 
Beth will speak at 11am to 2pm and provide free materials  
Question and Answer presentations will be ongoing during lunch and the afternoon.  
Stop by and say hello!
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Posted by: BlogMaster | September 27, 2014

Estate Planning: Do You Need Beneficiary Designation Forms?

You’ve done your estate planning. But if it doesn’t include Beneficiary Designation Forms, you’re not done yet.

Congratulations! You prepared a Will or Trust to pass your wealth to one or more beneficiaries.

Perhaps your estate plan includes an inherited special needs trust for a disabled family member, or a trust for young children or grandchildren. Or, your plan includes tax planning for you as a married couple (called Disclaimer Credit Shelter Trusts) or, you have bequeathed a part of your estate to charities.

Are you done now? The answer is No!

Think about your assets and remember that Beneficiary Designation Forms are key to having your wishes – as expressed in your Will or Trust – actually and specifically implemented as you wish after your death.

Why are Beneficiary Designation Forms and titling of assets important and necessary?

Because where there is a beneficiary or joint owner, the assets may not pass as you desire to your Will or Trust.

What does this mean? Some examples…

  • If a young child inherits your account, the Court must become involved to appoint a legal guardian to manage the inherited account. All use of the funds and assets then require the Court’s permission. 
  • If a disabled child or family member who is supported with Medicaid and/or SSI inherits your account outright, they will lose their government benefits.
  • If you want one or more charities to receive a share of your estate, your bequest is eliminated because no assets will pass under your Will.

Our best advice: Take time to look at the type of assets you own and look at your Beneficiary Designation forms.

  • Do you own retirement accounts (annuities, IRAs, etc.) or Life insurance with named beneficiaries?
  • Have you designated beneficiaries for bank or investment accounts – POD (payable on death) or TOD (transfer on death)?
  • If you answered yes to either of the above, these do not pass through you Will or Trust.  The designations may need proper legal tweaking or need to be redone.

At my law practice, signing your Will or Trust is just the first step. The process isn’t done until after the second step: properly completing Beneficiary Designation Forms.

Why is this so important for my clients? Because it helps you attain peace of mind knowing that your Will or Tust will carry forward your exact wishes and plan.

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Posted by: BlogMaster | September 10, 2014

Sometimes it’s a good idea to avoid probate!

If you live in New York State and know who your heirs are (and where they are) in a full family tree, then probate is not complex and not overly costly. In fact, most consumers confuse probate (for a Will) with the longer post-probate process of administering the estate (paying bills, selling a home, filing estate tax returns, etc.).

But even if you know your entire family tree, sometimes avoiding probate is a good idea – particularly if you own real estate, business interests or properties in more than one state.

Why?

Because in addition to the probate of a Will in your state of residence at your death, your executor must go to each state where you own property and re-do the entire process! And the fees can add up – court filing fees, legal fees and delays in each state where probate (called Ancillary Probate) are needed.

That’s when it may be time to consider a Revocable Living Trust.

And there’s another benefit to a revocable living trust.

If you become incapacitated or infirm and are unable to manage your property, your successor trustee can step in and act as the manager for your benefit without a court proceeding.

What must you do?

Visit a qualified attorney to discuss a Revocable Living Trust or other type of trust. The success of avoiding probate doesn’t end with signing the Trust. The lawyer should counsel and advise you on transferring the assets (by deed, shares of stock, etc.) to the Trust – or you will not avoid probate.

And remember, a Revocable Living Trust does not minimize or avoid inheritance taxes for New York State residents. If you are married, your living trust needs proper planning (see my blog on Disclaimer Credit Shelter trusts as part of your estate planning and NYS inheritance tax).

Never fall for ‘cookie-cutter’ estate planning, looseleaf plans or off-the-shelf kits sold by some law firms! These will not address your unique needs or your family’s.

My law firm provides personalized estate plans. Contact my office to discuss whether a revocable living trust is appropriate for you.

 

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