Jan Neal Law Firm, LLC

Alabama Estate, Elder and Special Needs Law


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Elder Law Training at OLLI

olli-materials-first-page

On October 10, 2016, Jan taught the first of a two part presentation on Elder Law at  Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Auburn University entitled Elder Law:  Enhancing the Lives of Seniors Through Education, Planning For What Comes Next.  The second session will be taught on Monday, October 17, 2016, at 2:30 p.m. at The Clarion in Auburn, Alabama.  

Topics covered in this training include:  Older Americans Act Legal Assistance; Important Documents Needed for Proper Planning; Authority Issues; Long-term Care Levels of Care and Payment Options; Medicaid for Long-term Care; Special Needs Planning; Probate; Administration of Estates; Planning for Last Remains and Funerals.

A 39 page Keynote presentation covering these topics is provided to course participants.

Anyone interested in this and the many other learning opportunities available through OLLI can learn more by visiting the OLLI website.


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Alabama ABLE Act to Provide Planning Opportunity for Disabled Persons

Husband and handicapped wife taking stroll in park alley

On June 9, 2015, Governor Bentley signed ABLE Act legislation into law in Alabama permitting the state to implement a program to permit developmentally disabled persons to have limited tax free savings without losing public benefits.  ABLE stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience, and the act was passed on the federal level in December 2014 permitting each state to set up its own program.  Though the program in Alabama has not yet become operable, it will be getting underway in the coming months.

The ABLE Act will permit up to $14,000 per year to be placed in one approved bank account set up for a developmentally disabled person living in Alabama (one who became disabled prior to age 26) with those funds exempt from counting as resources for public benefit purposes.  This means that the disabled person can have these funds to use for disability-related expenses without losing his or her public benefits such as SSI or Medicaid.  Up to $100,000 can be accumulated in an ABLE account without loss of SSI, and $350,000 can be accumulated in such an account in Alabama without loss of Medicaid (note that this is state specific, and some states may permit an accumulation as high as $425,210 or as low as $235,000 before loss of Medicaid).  At the death of the disabled person any funds left in the ABLE account will be payable to Medicaid to repay that agency in amounts up to what the agency paid for the disabled person’s health care costs.

Contributions to an ABLE account are not tax deductible, and income earned by an ABLE account is not taxable.

Stay tuned for more information about these accounts in the coming months or go to the Alabama State Treasury’s ABLE website and sign up for an update notification when accounts are available.    


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Nursing Home Residents Win Back Right to Sue

shutterstock_236328151According to ElderLaw Answers:

In recent years, nursing homes have increasingly asked — or forced — patients and their families to sign arbitration agreements prior to admission. By signing these agreements, patients or family members give up their right to sue if they believe the nursing home was responsible for injuries or the patient’s death.

Now, in an unexpected move, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is forbidding nursing homes from entering into binding arbitration agreements with a resident or their representative before a dispute arises. The agency has issued a final rule prohibiting so-called pre-dispute arbitration agreements in facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid patients, affecting 1.5 million nursing home residents. After a dispute arises, the resident and the long-term care facility could still voluntarily enter into a binding arbitration agreement if both parties agree.

For years, patient advocates have contended that those seeking admission to a nursing home are in no position to make a determination about giving up their right to sue. Families are focused on the quality of care, and forcing them to choose between care quality and forgoing their legal rights is unjust, the advocates said. Courts have sometimes struck down arbitration agreements as unfair, but others have upheld them.

“Clauses embedded in the fine print of nursing home admissions contracts have pushed disputes about safety and the quality of care out of public view,” the New York Times wrote in its coverage. “With its decision, [CMS] has restored a fundamental right of millions of elderly Americans across the country: their day in court.”

The nursing home industry has countered that the new rule will trigger more lawsuits that could increase costs and force some homes to close. Mark Parkinson, the president and chief executive of the American Health Care Association, said that the change “clearly exceeds” CMS’s statutory authority.

Although the rule could be challenged in court, for now it is scheduled to take effect on November 28, 2016, and will affect only future nursing home admissions. Pre-existing arbitration agreements will still be enforceable.

 


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Medicare Aneurysm Preventive Services

Did you know that Medicare pays for many preventive medical services?  An important preventive service provided by Medicare includes the following:

Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening is available for persons at the highest risk for aortic aneurysms.

WHO: People at risk for abdominal aortic aneurysm, which typically includes men 65-75 who have ever smoked

HOW OFTEN: One time and must have received a referral for screening during your Welcome to Medicare exam

YOUR COST: Free


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Elder Law at OLLI

Jan is teaching a two part course on Elder Law at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Auburn University (OLLI at Auburn).  See page 11 of the OLLI Spring 2016 catalog for the course description.  The first session is Wednesday, March 30, 2016, from 10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m., and the second will be on Wednesday, April 6, 2016, from 10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.  Topics to be covered include Older Americans Act Legal Assistance, Authority Issues and Advance Directive Options, Long-Term Care Planning, Long-Term Care Payment Options Including Medicaid, Special Needs Planning, Probate, Administration of Estates and Funeral Planning.  If you aren’t a member of OLLI, check out all the benefits and learning opportunities here.

Materials for the training can be downloaded at elder-law-training-for-olli-at-auburn-033016-60244085 and will be posted at this site soon.


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Who Isn’t Online?

1200 wide shutterstock_266064506For years I have been arguing with folks who say that older people don’t use the internet and can’t engage through that medium.  That didn’t make sense  to me.  For instance, people who are 70 today were 50 when personal computers began to emerge as a household staple, and they were often more likely to have the resources to explore new technologies coming into the consumer marketplace.  People who are 60 today were 40 then and at the height of their careers where the gradual integration of technology was a job requirement.  Retirees today connect with old and new friends on Facebook, tweet about their favorite subjects, pin their favorites, check email and text to communicate with family, friends and groups.  In fact entire industries of online caregiving have developed.  Sadly entire online industries of fraud have also developed requiring a great deal of poise for anyone online to stay safe.  With that said, there are people who never went online, but I’m pretty sure that their caregivers, both personal and professional, did.  But the question remains, who is not online these days?

I am not the only person wondering about that.  A Pew Research Center Study shows that 15 percent of the American population is not online, but the number is shrinking quickly.  From that study:

“For example, 86% of adults 65 and older did not go online in 2000; today that figure has been cut in half. And among those without a high school diploma, the share not using the internet dropped from 81% to 33% in the same time period.”

With that said, some people will never go online.  Some people never drove a car, but someone gave them a lift.  Today we recognize that by 2030 25 percent of the population will be 60+, and almost all of them will be online.  Recognizing this trend, The 2015 White House Conference on Aging produced some interesting tech related announcements worth exploring.  Among the 2015 WHCoA ideas, is development of a web site named aging.gov:

“to provide older Americans, their families, friends, and other caregivers, a one-stop resource for government-wide information on helping older adults live independent and fulfilling lives.  The Web site links to a broad spectrum of Federal information, including how to find local services and resources in your community for everything from healthy aging to elder justice to long-term care, as well as how to find key information on vital programs such as Social Security and Medicare.”

An innovative perspective is provided by The Center for Technology and Aging’s 2014 report (updated) titled The New Era of Connected Aging:  A Framework for Understanding Technologies that Support Older Adults Aging in Place.  The report provides an overview of how technology can improve the lives of seniors and help them remain in independent living arrangements.  The report examines some of the products emerging to support monitoring and management of physiological status and mental health, chronic condition management, technologies to support safe functional status at home, technologies to promote connectedness and products to support caregivers.

The debate is no longer whether technology will be used by and for seniors; the question is how.  The challenge will be to use technology to enhance the lives of seniors and their caregivers and promote the well-being and independence of seniors as they age.  What an exciting era in which to age and work with seniors!