Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Encase, Don't Laminate Medicare Cards


The Social Security Administration advises against card lamination.  Why? Cards may have built-in security features that could be compromised in the process.  Instead of laminating your Medicare card, purchase a plastic ID card holder. Why is Social Security suddenly concerned with our cards?  New Medicare cards are set to be issued April 1, just a few days from now. The new cards will no longer display your Social Security number, a move designed to protect against fraud and identity theft.

Do safeguard your card, Medicare.com advises, just as you would an identity document or credit card.  Remember to take the card with you, though, when going on a doctor visit. What should you do if you lose the card? Contact Social Security by:
  • visiting the website: https://www.ssa.gov/
  • calling 1-800-772-1213  M-F, 7AM-7PM
  • visiting your local Social Security office  (locator is at https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp
  • https://medicare.com/administration/can-laminate-medicare-card/
AARP Fraud Watch Network ambassador Frank Abannale suggests keeping the real card at home, but making a copy, blacking out all but the last four digits of your Social Security number.

By way of background, this whole change in Medicare cards is coming about because of a law enacted in 2015 called the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, which requires that the Social Security numbers be removed from all cards by April 2019. In this transition period (now through April 2019), providers can continue to use MBIs (Medicare beneficiary identifier numbers).

There’s no need to take any action to get the new Medicare card, and the new card won’t change your Medicare coverage or benefits.  And, of course, there’s no charge for the new card. Super-important alert: Medicare will never ask you to give personal or private information to receive your new card.
At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our attorneys are reminding everyone to encase, not laminate their new Medicare cards!

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Per Stirpes or Per Capita - Know the Difference


“Make sure your life insurance policy correctly lists your beneficiaries and how you want the money divided because you won’t be around to fix any mistakes if it’s not,” Natasha Cornelius writes in Quotacy.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary beneficiaries
If 100% of the policy proceeds are set to go to one person, that’s your primary beneficiary. But in case the beneficiary is unable to receive the proceeds, you can name a secondary beneficiary. A tertiary (third in line) beneficiary would be the backup if both primary and secondary beneficiaries are unable to receive the death benefit.

A simple example Quotacy gives is this: John Smith has a $500,000 life insurance policy and names his wife as primary beneficiary.  In case John and his wife die at the same time, John names his brother as secondary beneficiary.  As tertiary beneficiary, John names his favorite charity.

Per stirpes beneficiaries and per capita beneficiaries
Stirpes means “branch”.  If you say you want the proceeds of your life insurance to go to Lilly Brown and Donald Brown, per stirpes, then if Lilly is not alive to receive the money, her two children would split only Lilly’s portion of the inheritance. Don Brown would still get his 50%.

If you use the words per capita (per head), and Lilly has died along with you, your life insurance proceeds would be split evenly among Don and Lilly’s two children, with each receiving one-third.

It’s not only life insurance where you choose beneficiaries.
“Beware the beneficiary form,” cautions Carolyn Geer in the Wall Street Journal. Why? Even if you’ve gone to the trouble of making a will (and carefully selecting the beneficiaries of your life insurance as described above), all your hard work can be undone with the stroke of a pen when you open a bank, brokerage or retirement account, Geer explains.

People often seem perfectly willing to have huge sums of insurance proceeds or retirement funds distributed to their beneficiaries without any structural protections, Geer warns.  Merely writing down someone’s name as beneficiary will not protect against predators, creditors, or potential ex-spouses. Naming minors, special needs individuals, or even financially irresponsible heirs as direct beneficiaries is never a good idea, she adds.

Leave peace of mind along with assets
When mistakes are made, you’re not creating problems for you,” Keith Friedman writes in NASDAQ. “You’re creating problems for the people you leave behind.” While nobody wants to think about death or disability, we explain to our Geyer Law clients, proper estate planning puts you in charge of your finances and spares the people dear to you the expense, delay, frustration – and confusion.


- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

When It Comes to Nursing Home Care, Haave a healthy Respect for the Doctrine

You might be responsible for your spouse’s medical bills even if you didn’t sign a thing, writes Mark Cappel in bills.com.  It’s called the Doctrine of Necessaries Rule. In Indiana, a spouse can be obligated to pay for medical care received by the other spouse if the debtor spouse is unable to satisfy his or her own debt.

The whole “necessaries” thing started back when women had no independent legal right to procure food, shelter, or medical services on credit separate from their husbands, so the law counterbalanced that “legal disability” by creating a duty on the part of the husband to provide all necessities for his wife. In Indiana today, there is “secondary liability” for both spouses.  The liability extends only to amounts that don’t exceed the non-debtor spouse’s ability to pay at the time the debt was incurred.

When does the issue of “necessaries” commonly arise?  When someone dies in a nursing home, leaving a surviving spouse and unpaid medical care bills. If a medical provider has not been paid for its services, it can look to the other spouse for repayment of the debt.
In an actual Indiana court case dating back to 2013, the Court of Appeals held that a nursing home could not collect money from Ms. Comb’s husband to pay expenses incurred before her death. Why? The nursing home did not first work to collect from the patient or her estate. But had the nursing home first tried to collect from the estate, the nursing home could have gone after her husband.

What about the responsibility of children?  Could the nursing home have gone after Ms. Combs’ children to try and collect the money owed?  Indiana does, indeed, have a filial responsibility law, which says that adult children have a legal obligation to financial support their parents if the parents are physically and/or mentally unable to take care of themselves.

The Indiana Lawyer summarizes the situation as follows:
Indiana Code 31-16-17, “Liability for Support of Parents,” specifies that if a child is “financially able,” and a parent is “financially unable” to pay for medical care, the child shall contribute to the costs. “

As elder law attorneys in Indiana, we know that nursing home costs can wipe out the savings of all but the wealthiest families.  Meanwhile, achieving Medicaid eligibility is becoming more and more difficult, with regulations involving “look-back periods”, penalties, and waiting periods. Our law firm has the experience to help families avoid financial ruin – and avoid the sort of Doctrine of Necessaries and filial responsibility legal complications which can arise.

There are ways to avoid the estate settlement delays and legal costs such as the ones the Ms.Combs’ survivors needed to go through. Make it your “doctrine of necessaries” to update your estate plan now.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

New Securities and Exchange Commission Rule to Protect Seniors

The same sheriff is in town, but there are some brand new rules. The Securities and Exchange Commission just last month approved - FINRA Rule 2165, officially called the Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults. What’s it all about?

Financial services companies are now allowed to place temporary holds on disbursements of funds or securities from a customer’s account when there is a reasonable belief of financial exploitation of these customers. In addition, an amendment to FINRA Rule 4512, which governs the way customer account information is collected and stored, now requires financial companies to make reasonable efforts to obtain the name and contact information for a trusted person for a customer’s account.

In explaining the reasoning behind the changes, the FINRA Regulatory Notice says: “With the aging of the U.S. population, financial exploitation of seniors is a serious and growing problem.”

For our attorneys at Geyer Law, this is hardly “new news”. As Indiana elder law attorneys, we join the Indiana Attorney General, the FBI, and now FINRA in constantly preaching the need for vigilance in fighting scams that target senior citizens.
“As an individual ages, his risk for financial exploitation increases dramatically,” financial planning certificant Tom McAllister reminds blog readers. The National Adult Protective Services Association defines “financial exploitation” as occurring when a person misuses or takes the assets of a senior or other vulnerable adult for his own person benefit.  Exploitation may involve:
  • deception
  • false pretenses
  • coercion
  • harassment
  • duress
  • threats
When it comes to investment accounts, the new FINRA Rule 2165 allows broker-dealers to place a temporary hold (for up to 25 business days) on disbursement of funds or securities from an account if the broker-dealer has reason to believe that financial exploitation of a client:
  • has occurred
  • is occurring
  • has been attempted
  • will be attempted
While disbursements out of the account are put on hold, the hold does not apply to transactions in securities. Meanwhile, investment advisers can encourage their clients to look at their entire estate plan to ensure that they have given durable power of attorney to trusted people.
As FINRA explains in the regulatory notice, if a financial advisor “suspects that a customer is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other forms of diminished capacity.” That advisor could reach out to the trusted contact person to address possible financial exploitation. At FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the new rules are all about protecting seniors.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Legacies and Legatees - Not Always the Perfect Match


“As baby boomers grow older, the volume of unwanted keepsakes and family heirlooms is poised to grow – along with the number of delicate conversations about what to do with them…As these waves of older adults start moving to smaller dwellings…they and their kin will have to part with household possessions that the heirs simply don’t want.”

And what if the household possessions were still owned by the parents up until their death? One of an estate executor’s most onerous talks is listing the estate’s assets for the court and for the heirs. The executor, most often a sibling or adult child, needs to gather proof of ownership and get appraisals for heirlooms, jewelry, artwork, antiques, and vehicles.

At the law firm of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, where our goal is to be a resource to clients, we know that you want to protect not only the people most important to you, but the assets you’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.  Sometimes, though, when your assets include “stuff”,
stuff your heirs are unlikely to find useful or valued, there is a problem. How can you “rightsize” now, while making your estate plan more streamlined and effective when the time comes?

It’s always best when your gift or legacy is a perfect match with the goals and tastes of the recipient. In a former blog post, for example, we shared a story of a woman who had taught music at her home for many years and who owned close to 300 music books. The happy outcome involved a gift to a charity that provided piano lessons to underprivileged youngsters.

It’s not always that antique china cabinet with the heirloom dinner plates that turns out to be the gift that is more of a burden than a blessing to heirs. There are some types of legacy that heirs might be better off without:

  • Property that is subject to a mortgage or lien
  • Property that has some form of contamination or pollution problem.
  • A share in a business you own that is totally unrelated to the heir’s abilities and interests
When leaving assets to heirs, consider each one’s tax brackets. As HFS Wealth Management points out, “an inheritance is generally worth only what your heirs get to keep after taxes are paid.” Naming an heir as beneficiary of a 401K or IRA is different from naming that heir as beneficiary of your Roth IRA account.

“A growing number of adult children are providing care for elderly parents, and they may feel resentful if they have to share an inheritance equally with siblings who didn’t help out, Eleanor Laise writes in Kiplinger. When a vacation home is left to multiple heirs, those children may not have an equal ability to take advantage of that gift, depending on their own family situation, work demands, and distance.

Legacies and legatees may not always be the perfect match!

Typed, Handprinted, or Written? When It Comes To Wills, Take Your Pick

When it comes to a will, any person of sound mind over the age of 18 (or who is younger and a member of the armed forces) may – and absolutely should - execute one.  In Indiana, the document must be signed and acknowledged in the presence of two or more witnesses.  Typically wills are typed documents, but in many states holographic, or handwritten wills are acceptable. In fact, if a will is made in imminent peril of death, it might even be oral or nuncupative.
At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, P.C., when we prepare estate planning documents for our clients throughout the state of Indiana, those documents are typed. Every so often, however, a client of ours is named executor of someone else’s estate, and the will the deceased left is holographic.

Does holographic literally mean handwritten (in cursive), you may wonder, or could it have been printed by hand in block letters? In some states, the answer is yes; a holographic will must be entirely in the will maker’s own handwriting. The important thing to remember is that there must be evidence that the “testator” (the person executing the will) is the one who actually created it, and in the event of a dispute, handwriting experts might be called in.

The state of Indiana has no statutory provisions for holographic wills; on the other hand, Indiana courts have not tended to invalidate wills simply because they have been handwritten, provided that the documents meet the legal standards of this state and were witnessed correctly by two disinterested witnesses.

Whether typed, blog printed, or written in cursive, a will can be made “self proved” by attaching a self-proving clause in which witnesses attest to the authenticity of the will and to the testator’s competency to make that will. And, while this is relatively scarce in today’s digital generation, in the non-urban areas of our state, we’re still seeing adult children asking us for help handling their parents’ holographic wills.