Category Archive: Legal and Financial

Openings in the SCSEP job training program

The Orlando Office of the Senior Community Service Employment Program has a several slots available for adults age 55+ who are looking to re-enter the job market. 

Adults age 55+ who meet federal program guidelines are then matched with local nonprofits and government agencies so they can increase skills and build self-confidence, while earning a modest salary. This is a “job training” program and is a path toward permanent employment in the community.  Click here to see the AARP website for more details.

Federal guidelines include – but are not limited to:

  • Income 125% of Federal Poverty Level
  • Age 55+

CALL the Orlando Office for more information – 407-852-1608 …. One Senior Place does not have any additional information on this program.

Thank you for sharing in the community and helping adults age 55+ know there are slots available in this program.

Can Medicaid Take My Florida Homestead?

Submitted by: The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan, Board Certified Elder Law Attorneys, One Senior Place Resident Business

H&B new picAs elder law attorneys, one of the most common questions we are asked by clients is whether Medicaid can take their Florida homestead property. The simple answer is “No, generally Medicaid cannot take your homestead property during life, or, with proper planning, upon death.” But, as is the case with most legal questions, the answer isn’t always so straight forward. This article is a more complete answer to the question at hand.

One of the reasons there seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding whether Medicaid can take homestead property is likely due to the fact that Medicaid rules vary from state to state. When applying for Medicaid benefits in Florida, the homestead is considered exempt and protected if: 1) a spouse or dependent/disabled child continues to reside in the home; or 2) the individual (or, on his or her behalf, a designated representative) states an “intent to return” home. The homestead will remain exempt during the lifetime of the applicant if the above criteria is met.

In addition, Florida has constitutional protection for homestead many states do not offer. In many states, creditors, including Medicaid, can force the sale of homestead property. This is not the case in Florida if the home is left to the surviving spouse or other family member. So, if you are discussing this issue with your brother in New Jersey there might be a different answer for New Jersey homestead but here in Florida, an individual can qualify for Medicaid while still owning his or her home.

So, what exactly is homestead? The Florida Constitution defines homestead as real property of no more than 1/2 of an acre of contiguous land in a municipality, or 160 acres outside a municipality, owned by a natural person, and the improvements on it. There is extensive case law about what exactly constitutes homestead, but that is beyond the scope of this article. For purposes of this article, homestead is the dwelling and attached land where you, or your family, reside. Rental properties and vacation homes are not typically considered homestead property. Further, in Florida, an individual can usually only have one homestead property. Homestead property is protected from Medicaid under Florida law, but additional properties are not.

It is important to keep in mind there are scenarios that may cause a Medicaid recipient to lose their homestead during their lifetime. Although the Medicaid rules allow retention of homestead as an asset, the Medicaid income rules can create practical challenges. Once approved for Medicaid, the bulk of the individual’s monthly income must be paid to the nursing home where the person is residing. Consequently, even though the homestead is not considered a countable asset, the real problem occurs if the applicant or applicant’s family can no longer afford to pay the taxes, insurance, and/or mortgage on the homestead property. If expenses on the home cannot be paid, Medicaid will not take the person’s home, but the inability to pay for upkeep and maintenance could force the sale of the home and, upon the sale of the home, the proceeds from the sale are not protected and may cause the loss of Medicaid eligibility if not timely planned for.

As you can see, the question of whether Medicaid can take your Florida homestead is not a simple answer of “Yes” or “No.” There are several factors that determine the correct answer. It is always prudent to consult with an elder law attorney regarding your specific situation in order to receive the most appropriate explanation. If you have questions concerning qualifying for Medicaid or any other elder law issue, please contact the Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan at (407) 977-8080.

SPECIAL May Elder Law Month Workshop

Kathleen FlammiaIn honor of May National Elder Law Month, we are offering a *FREE* and *SPECIAL* Workshop. This event will take place on Tuesday, May 22nd from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at One Senior Place located at 715 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714.

During the first half of the workshop I will be discussing the in’s and out’s of Elder Law, what documents you need and what you need to do to save your assets from the always growing Nursing Home costs!

The last portion of the workshop will be dedicated to a FREE Estate Planning document review by an Attorney. If you would like your current Estate Planning documents reviewed for FREE by an ATTORNEY, call 407-478-8700 today! We are only accepting the first 20 pre-registerered guests, so call now before it’s too late!

 

Understanding Florida ABLE Accounts

H&B new picThe Achieving Better Life Experience Act, or ABLE Act, was signed into law by President Obama in December 2014.  ABLE updates the Internal Revenue Code to allow eligible individuals and their families to establish a tax-exempt savings account that allows for disbursements of income tax-free funds for “qualified disability expenses,” including education, transportation, housing, obtaining and maintaining employment, personal support services, assistive technology and health and wellness.  Money contributed to an ABLE account is generally disregarded, or not countable, when determining eligibility for federal benefit programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

The Florida legislature passed the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, which was signed into law by Governor Rick Scott on May 21, 2015. This state law establishes ABLE United, to oversee the state of Florida’s qualified ABLE program. As of this month, July 2016, eligible Florida residents may establish ABLE accounts.

In order to establish an ABLE account, the individual with a disability must be a Florida resident. Further, the ABLE Act limits eligibility to individuals who have developed significant disabilities before turning 26 years old.  You do not have to be under the age of 26 to qualify as long as you have documentation and/or medical records which prove the onset of the disability before age 26.  If you meet the age of onset criteria and are receiving benefits under SSI and/or SSDI you are automatically eligible.  Otherwise, you must have a condition listed in the “List of Compassionate Allowances Conditions” maintained by the Social Security Administration, certify blindness or have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment.

An individual may only have one ABLE account and the total annual contributions, by all contributing individuals, including family and friends, is $14,000. This amount will be adjusted annually for inflation. Under current tax law, $14,000 is the maximum amount individuals can gift to someone else and not pay taxes. For individuals with disabilities, who also receive SSI and/or Medicaid, there are further limitations. The first $100,000 in an ABLE account will be exempt from the SSI $2,000 individual resource limit. When an ABLE account exceeds $100,000, the beneficiary will be suspended from eligibility for SSI benefits and no longer receive that monthly income. However, the beneficiary will continue to be eligible for Medicaid, as there are no Medicaid limits for ABLE accounts.

If you would like more information about ABLE accounts please contact the Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan at (407) 977-8080 or visit HoytBryan.com, for more information.

Long-Term Care Insurer Cannot Be Sued for Elder Financial Abuse

Submitted by: Kathleen Flammia, P.A., Board Certified Elder Law Attorney, One Senior Place Resident Business

Kathleen FlammiaLong-term care insurance policyholders suing Bankers Life and Casualty Company were dealt a blow by the Oregon Supreme Court when it ruled that the state’s elder financial abuse statute does not apply to their case.

Residents of Oregon who bought long-term care insurance policies from Bankers Life and Casualty Company sued the insurer five years ago in federal court. The policyholders claimed that the company violated Oregon’s elder financial abuse law by purposely delaying and denying insurance claims. The policyholders alleged that, among other things, the company didn’t answer phone calls, lost documents, wrongly denied claims, and paid less than policyholders were entitled to.

The lead plaintiff, 87-year-old Lorraine Bates, moved into an adult foster home in 2009 but Bankers refused to pay her claim, saying the facility didn’t meet its policy requirements. Another plaintiff, Eileen Burk, purchased a long-term health-care policy from Bankers.  After she moved into an assisted living facility, her son had trouble filing a claim with the insurance company because the company refused to assist him.

After the federal district court dismissed the lawsuit, the policyholders appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Because the legal question centered on the state’s elder financial abuse law, the appeals court asked the Oregon Supreme Court to determine whether the policyholders could sue the insurer under state law for wrongful withholding of money. The financial abuse law prohibits an entity or person that is holding or controlling an elderly person’s money from withholding that money if the money was acquired from the elderly person. The policyholders argued that the insurance company acquired money in the form of premiums from the insurance company and then refused to return it in the form of benefits.

The Oregon Supreme Court determined that the elder financial abuse statute does not apply to an insurance company that delayed the processing of claims and refused to pay benefits. The court rules that the law applies only when one person or entity holds the money that still “belongs to” the elderly person. According to the court, the money the policyholders paid to Bankers became Bankers’ money and no longer belonged to the policyholders.

To read the Oregon court’s decision, go here: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/S064742.pdf.

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The Law Office of Kathleen Flammia has been serving Orange County and surrounding areas for the past fourteen years. Kathleen Flammia began her Elder Law practice in the heart of Winter Park, Florida after being in the criminal defense arena for 15 years.

“Veterans Benefits: Best Kept Secrets”

One Senior Place & VITAS Healthcare’s Veteran’s Benefits Resource Fair A Success!

The Best Kept Secrets About Veterans Benefits Were Revealed!

B-20882 BVD Once Senior Place Veterans Resource Flyer-5

Last Friday, March 16th from 2-4pm One Senior Place and VITAS Healthcare held their first free Veterans resource fair to share the Best Kept Secrets when it comes to Veterans Benefits.  Four presenters came out to speak on their respective specialties in order to give the Veterans the best assistance they could receive.  They included:

 

Doug Walton from FDVA: Disability Benefits

Dennis Vannorsdall From the Brevard Veterans Service Office: Aid and Attendance

Don Murphy From Cape Canaveral National Cemetery: Burial Benefits

JC Burchette From Eastern Florida State College: GI Bill

 

The event brought at least 40 individuals out to the Veterans Memorial Center, with an overall estimated 70 people in attendance including various vendors and organizations.  Attendees asked great questions not only to the presenters, but also to the vendors. There was a local high school JROTC that came and presented the Flag for the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterwards, the Museum donated a check to support their program. Everyone was thrilled to see them come out and show off their skills.  Rob Medina from Congressman Bill Posey’s office gave the invocation and spoke briefly.  Mr. Medina commended both One Senior Place and VITAS Healthcare for holding such a great event for our Veterans.

One big highlight of the event was when a 94 year old World War II Veteran got up and asked a question. He briefly went into his service to our country and mention that he and his 92 year old wife are doing well. He told a few jokes and everyone truly enjoyed his contribution to the event.  He was given a huge round of applause which was very touching.  The entire event was a wonderful success!

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The team involved would like to give a special thanks to those who came out to support the event including One Senior Place CEO and Founder, Don Kramer; OSP Referral Specialist, Barbara Fradkin, BSW; along with VITAS Healthcare representatives Sara Goldberg, Brianna Sequeira, and Kathi Ridner.  We would also like to thank the 15 various vendors that were in attendance who aided in the explanation of various Veterans benefits and services as follows:

 

VA Clinic Viera

Vet Center Melbourne

UCF Restore

Space Coast Honor Flight

Volunteers of America

211 Brevard

Aging Matters Brevard

Helping Seniors Brevard

Sonata Viera

Housing for Homeless Titusville

Jewish War Veterans

 

One Senior Place and VITAS Healthcare look forward to bringing this event to the community again and again to give the Veterans of our community the important information and recognition that they need and deserve!

A Guidebook to Planning for Old Age

Submitted by: Kathleen Flammia, P.A., Board Certified Elder Law Attorney, One Senior Place Resident Business

16548-Loverde 2Joy Loverde. Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? Plan Now to Safeguard Your Health and Happiness in Old Age. New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 2017. 313 pages. Click here to order book via IndieBound.org

Millions of Americans are facing old age essentially alone.  One in three baby boomers is single or no longer part of a couple due to divorce or death.  Others may be in a relationship where chronic illness has struck both partners simultaneously. Children may live too far away or lack the resources to offer a parent meaningful help.

But there is no reason why circumstances like these should bar anyone from a quality old age.  It just takes planning, which is where this empowering book comes in. Full of helpful checklists and worksheetsWho Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? is an essential guide to preparing for and navigating the inevitable losses that aging entails – the loss of functioning, the loss of loved ones and friends, and the loss of income.

Joy Loverde, a consultant and speaker on aging issues and the author of The Complete Eldercare Planner, has written a self-help book that offers both emotional and practical advice.  The first chapters address overcoming the psychological barriers to planning.  After all, the prospect of growing old and needing care is something most people would prefer not to think about, much less plan for.  One early section suggests ways to avoid self-sabotaging thoughts.  Other section headings include “Lessen the Grip of Guilt” and “Motivate Yourself.”

The book then turns to the planning work at hand.  An early chapter deals with how to stay afloat financially.  Near the top of the list are getting one’s legal affairs in order, including consulting with an elder law attorney.  Loverde suggests ways to create an income stream in retirement and lists scores of job possibilities.  She even has recommendations for lowering grocery bills.

Kathleen FlammiaSucceeding chapters present ideas and resources for successfully aging in place alone, exploring housing options both in the U.S. and abroad, coping with widowhood, “foraging for a family,” staying connected with those you know and making new friends, and evaluating medical providers.  One chapter is devoted to considerations in adopting a pet.

The final chapters deal with strategies for coping when old age becomes seriously challenging.  Loverde covers “the game changer” of chronic illness, including how to effectively advocate for yourself or find a professional to advocate for you.   A chapter titled “‘Just Shoot Me’ Is Not a Plan” maps strategies for ensuring quality care at the end of life.  There is even a list of resources for those considering “suicide tourism.”

Throughout the book, Loverde provides names of helpful organizations, and one fun feature is that each chapter ends with one recommended book, YouTube video, movie, song and TED Talk on that chapter’s topic.  Near the end Loverde includes a multi-page goldmine of useful websites (ElderLawAnswers among them).

This is not the kind of book anyone looks forward to reading, but it is a book that is essential reading for anyone who wants to start laying the groundwork now for the best possible old age.

To read more about Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old?click here.

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The Law Office of Kathleen Flammia has been serving Orange County and surrounding areas for the past fourteen years. Kathleen Flammia began her Elder Law practice in the heart of Winter Park, Florida after being in the criminal defense arena for 15 years.

Report Finds Lack of Government Oversight of Assisted Living Facilities

Submitted by: Kathleen Flammia, P.A., Board Certified Elder Law Attorney, One Senior Place Resident Business

Kathleen FlammiaThe government is spending billions to fund assisted living services through Medicaid, but government oversight and regulation of assisted living facilities is lacking, according to a new government report.

Medicaid funds long-term care services for low-income individuals. It is primarily used for nursing home care, but 48 states have opted to give assisted living residents the ability to receive Medicaid benefits, mostly through “waiver” programs that promote home health care. More than 330,000 people in assisted living are receiving more than $10 billion in Medicaid benefits to pay for those services. Because the number of individuals receiving long-term care services from Medicaid in assisted living facilities is only expected to grow, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) surveyed state Medicaid agencies and interviewed officials for a report on federal oversight of these facilities.

The GAO found that there are both gaps in state reporting of cases of harm to assisted living residents – such as abuse, neglect and exploitation – and a lack of guidance from the federal government on what needs to be reported. States are required to monitor “critical” incidents that may harm a beneficiary’s health or welfare, but they have leeway in determining what they consider a critical incident. While all the states considered physical assault, emotional abuse, and sexual assault to be critical incidents, three states don’t monitor unexpected or unexplained deaths and seven states don’t monitor the threat of suicide. In addition, more than half of the 48 states couldn’t tell the GAO the number or nature of critical incidents at assisted living facilities.

“Medicaid beneficiaries receiving assisted living services include older adults and individuals with physical, developmental, or intellectual disabilities, some of whom can be particularly vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation,” the report notes.

The GAO report recommends that the federal government clarify state requirements for reporting program deficiencies and require annual reporting of critical incidents. According to the report, states need clear guidance on what incidents should be reported and the government needs to ensure that the states provide that information on time.

To read the GAO report, click here.

To read a New York Times article about the report, click here.

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The Law Office of Kathleen Flammia has been serving Orange County and surrounding areas for the past fourteen years. Kathleen Flammia began her Elder Law practice in the heart of Winter Park, Florida after being in the criminal defense arena for 15 years.

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