Category Archives: Elder Law

Do you we need to cash life insurance policies for Medicaid?

Q: My daughter is beneficiary of a life insurance policy. The owner just went to a nursing home on hospice. The Executor wants to cash in the policy for the cash value for Medicaid. The owner of the policy is of sound mind. What are our rights? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: The owner of the policy can do as he or she wishes. It is not the decision of the Executor. The Executor is appointed in the will and only has legal authority after the owner dies. If this person is Agent on a valid Power of Attorney signed by the owner, he or she may have authority to do this if the language of the POA allows it. However, if the owner is competent to make this decision, the Agent must abide by the owner’s wishes and cannot act to the contrary. Perhaps the Executor thinks the owner needs to liquidate this policy in order to spend down for Medicaid? Under section 258.3 of the PA Code, life insurance policy proceeds payable to a living beneficiary are not subject to the claim of the PA Department of Human Services, who manages the Medicaid program in PA. My thought is that if this “Executor” person is trying to do Medicaid planning without the assistance of a lawyer, he or she is taking a risk. Advise this person to seek legal help from an attorney versed in Medicaid regulation.

Do Not Resuscitate against my mother’s wishes?

Q: My mother wants to be resuscitated and I am her POA. I informed the hospital where she is now about her wishes. Hospital had an ethics committee meeting and decided that she should be “Do Not Resuscitate”, against my consent. What can be done? Thank you. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:   Against your consent doesn’t matter, this decision can only be based on what your mother wants. You need to verify more information. Does this POA you reference give you authority to act on her behalf for medical needs? Do you have a separate Medical POA? If you do not have medical powers, the hospital may not be required to release any medical information to you. I think you need to verify if A) your mother signed a hospital DNR card and who has it, B) your mother has a Living Will and who has it (her doctor, the hospital, etc.) C) your mother is competent and if she is not D) does this POA give you authority to make medical decisions. Once you can answer these questions, you should attempt once more to speak with the manager of this facility. If you still get nowhere, hire an elder law attorney versed in nursing home practice to consult with and if necessary retain him or her.

Medicaid and elder law question?

Q: I have been renting a room in an apartment from the apartment’s tenant/leaseholder. The leaseholder is now applying for Medicaid– and to show that there is a roommate (someone who is staying in one of her rooms and paying for that room), the leaseholder is submitting my name, address as well as my phone number in her Medicaid application process. (We are not related.) I guess my information would be listed in her file and I was wondering what implications there might be for me. Would Medicaid contact me for any reason? Would they request more information from me? Would I have the right to ask the leaseholder not to submit my information? Thank you in advance for your help. (Brentwood, PA)

A: Medicaid is just trying to verify her income. Medicaid likely is not interested in your personal information other than the amount of rent you pay and perhaps how long your lease is. Unless you are in the witness protection program, on the lamb for child support or back taxes or a fugitive of some sort, you should help her out.

How? What?

Q: My mother had a stroke and is unable to care for herself. My father passed away 4 years ago. I’m their only child. How can I get power of attorney? Am I able to take over the house they lived in? Neither one had a will or living will. There is more I want to ask and know but I either talk on the phone or in person. (Turtle Creek, PA)

A: You need to find a local attorney who handles wills, POA’s and estates. Find someone who will give you a free or low-cost consultation. Your mother can only sign a POA or other documents, if she is competent. If she is not, you may need to have an attorney petition the court to be her guardian. If mother is competent, an attorney can prepare a POA, Will and Living Will at a reasonable cost.

Can we use a voluntary lien against a home for loaned furniture?

Q: My father passed away recently. He married a woman a few months before he passed who, well, let’s just say, is not the most trustworthy person. He left her his home in his will that was paid for and lien free. The contents of the home were also left to her. However, each of his six children was allowed to claim one piece of favorite furniture, (i.e six pieces of furniture in total). Of course, she would prefer us to leave the furniture and in fact offered to buy it back. Realistically that’s cost prohibitive for her, even if anyone was willing. As I mentioned, she isn’t the most trustworthy person but we are willing to leave the furniture for her to use freely until her death or sale of the home. These antiques are valued at approximately $35,000-$40,000. We would like her to file a free lien against the home or have a secured debt drawn up to ensure the value is protected and that we get it back. She will likely leave the home to her daughter at which time we would want the furniture back “if she doesn’t sell it”. We simply want to secure the value in case something happens. Can we accomplish this by using the aforementioned methods for security? (Swissvale, PA)

A: You can do several things however more information is needed to appropriately advise you. If these pieces of furniture are left to the children through his will as specific gifts, I would likely advise to get them out of the house now. If you really want to leave these items in the house, you can have her sign a promissory note and confession in judgment for the value of the items. If she becomes the owner of the home (via the estate) and there are no prior judgments against her, this judgment will act as a first-in-line lien against the home. This should secure your interests better, rather than waiting to file a claim against her estate after she passes, assuming her heirs even open an estate.

What are the options if a Power of Attorney refuses to do the job of a Power of Attorney?

Q: My father has my sister as his Power of Attorney, due to having issues with the law (DUI) and not being able to take care of his own financial obligations (Bills, Mortgage, and the like). We (my two sisters and I) sat down to figure out the best person for the job, and because of her strong financial stability, it was decided that the eldest daughter should take that responsibility. That was February of 2015. By September of 2015, my sister said she was not going to have anything to do with him, and refused to relinquish power of attorney. My father is now in Foreclosure with the house, bills were several months behind, until I moved back in. I cannot afford to cover the mortgage, otherwise I would have. My father spends well out of his means, and I have no legal basis to stop him. My sister was supposed to pay all the bills, and then have a card sent, so I could make sure that all his other needs were met. I love my family, but my dad is now living in a motel room, because of having nowhere else to go. What can I do? (Ligonier, PA)

A: If your father is competent, acknowledges that he needs help, and is willing to appoint you as his agent on a new power of attorney, he can simply revoke the present power of attorney and sign a new one. As mentioned, even with the power of attorney in place, he can still handle is own finances-write checks, spend money, etc. If he is not competent, unable to care for himself or danger to himself, you may want to consider having yourself appointed as his guardian. To do this you will need to have a lawyer file a petition with the court and a hearing will be held. You need to consult with an elder law attorney in your area.

Do I have a right to know who the POA successor is?

Q: My oldest sister is POA for my mom for about 3 years now. She has made some awful business decisions and wasting money on things that aren’t needed. She refuses to do much needed repairs for mom’s home that mom still lives in and I am mom’s primary caregiver as I live here with her. And sister POA refuses to let any of her 4 siblings know anything about mom’s finances. She refuses to let any of us know who her successor is in the event she can no longer carry out the POA duties. She also has major health issues. She just says, “it’s none of you”. This is completely against my mom’s wishes. She acts as if we have no right to know anything about anything. Do we have the right to know? She has become very suspicious. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:  I can think of no law that requires your mother’s agent on a power of attorney to inform anyone of the contents of the document. Yes, it would be nice if she would, but she is not violating a law for not doing so. If your mother is competent, she can revoke the power of attorney given to your sister. If mother is not competent or is under duress or undue influence from your sister, the only way of having sister removed as Agent on the power of attorney is by seeking to be your mother’s guardian. This will require a lawyer. You can also hire a lawyer to make a written request for a copy of the POA document. If your sister refuses to produce it, the attorney can advise you on whether to petition the court to order production of the POA. If your mother is competent and trustful of you, I do not understand why she doesn’t answer your question. Your best bet would be to consult with a lawyer with whom you can share all the facts.

Can power of attorney be revoked?

Q: A family member obtained medical, and general power of attorney, through a lawyer, for my grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s when she filled out the forms as well. I’m wondering if we could get revocation forms, signed, notarized with a witness, and then filed with the County Clerk’s Office, without needing the service(s) of a lawyer, and have it be made official and indisputable. Any suggestions? (Coraopolis, PA)

A: As pointed out, one can still be viewed as legally competent, even with dementia. It depends on the severity of the dementia. Most Power of Attorney documents have language which states that the document can be revoked in writing by the Principal. Check the power of attorney document to see if it contains such language. Even if it does not, and grandmother is competent, she can sign a simple letter or document stating that her prior power of attorney is revoked. You should take the revocation document to all entities and persons who are relying on it in providing services to your grandmother. For example, banks, her doctor, etc.

Can Medicaid put a lien on a house if there was a QCD at least 1yr. prior?

Q: Mother was taking care of grandmother. Mother then dies. Grandson steps in to take care of grandmother. Together they get a Quit Claim Deed. Grandmother gets injury to foot. The doctor advises ER visit. Grandmother kept 3 days then moved to nursing facility for “rehabilitation”. The nursing facility moves grandmother into extended stay. Medicaid takes over after 3months. Medicaid put lien on house approximately 4 months later. Quit Claim Deed was already in place but not recorded yet. (West Mifflin, PA)

A: Medicaid can look back for a period of five years at all transfers of real and personal property by a Medicaid applicant. If the transfer was done without fair consideration, for example, by gift, the transferred property can be considered part of the applicant’s estate. If so, Medicaid can exclude the applicant from funding to the extent of the value of the property. This is what sounds like happened here. It would be worth your while to have the case reviewed by an attorney versed in Medicaid regulations. There may be an exception if a disabled child was living the home or a child serving as a caretaker of the applicant lived in the home for a two-year period prior to hospitalization. In addition, there are permissible exclusions in the spend down process that you may want to be advised on.

Is it elderly abuse when your mother-in -law sleeps in her car?

Q: My mother in law won’t live in my home due to her and I not getting along. She had her own place once and then she lost it. She has no job to support herself. She stayed with us for a while and then she blew up on us. She was told to leave by my husband. Now she is parking her car in my back yard and she is staying in there. She will come into the house and use the bathroom and then leave. I do not talk to her much due to issues we have had in the past. There is also a homeless shelter that she qualifies for that will help her find work gives her a place to sleep and three meals a day. She doesn’t want to go there. I’m lost at what I can do personally without causing a major blow up between all of us. Plus, I only have a two-bed room home with two boys and me and dad. Please give us advice. (Scott Twp., PA)

A: Based on what you are saying, it seems like no one is abusing her and her predicament is self-inflicted. If she is mentally competent, she can choose to live in a car or under a bridge. If you feel that she is mentally incompetent or has serious mental health issues, you may want to call adult protective services or mental health services. They may come out and talk to her and assess her ability to care for herself.