This is our fourth newsletter during these interesting COVID times. It’s funny – my writing bug tends to come in waves and then go away for a while. Apparently it’s been sticking around lately. I’m sure you can relate when it comes to your writing, art, or hobbies. This week I want to focus on what our office can do for you, right now. You can revisit our prior newsletters here.
Get Your House in Order a/k/a Get Your Ducks in a Row
If you have time on your hands right now, maybe it’s a good moment to spend a few hours working out the what / who / how of your estate plan. I can help you make sure that those who matter most know what matters most to you in terms of your health care. We can think through and plan for how to make sure that you get the hands-on care you might need over the years. We can figure out what the best vehicle is for you to create an inheritance process for your heirs. We can talk through who the best people are to be your health care proxy, power of attorney, executor, and trustee. We can wrestle with and work through the various components of getting your house in order (or, if you are sick of being at home – we can call it getting your ducks in a row).
Billing & Discharge Issues from the Hospital, Rehab, or Nursing Home
For anyone on Medicare (plus a supplement, or, on a Medicare Advantage Plan), you need to know that Medicare has strict billing requirements. If the hospital, rehab, or nursing home bills incorrectly to Medicare and the supplemental insurance, the provider will be in trouble. Not only will they not be paid for the particular service that they incorrectly billed for, but they may even owe a penalty. If you are having billing problems with a provider, you need to understand this. And, it gets tougher – during this state of emergency, CMS (the federal agency housing Medicare) has changed MANY of their billing and service requirements. It is very understandable that some medical billing offices could be confused, receiving conflicting guidance, etc. If you are having billing problems, first, be patient with the person on the other end of the phone, and second, feel free to call me for help.
If you find out that your loved one needs to stay in a nursing home and you are worried about how to pay for that, please reach out and we can analyze whether it may be appropriate to apply for MassHealth. If it is, then Doreen and I can handle the application for you. Or, if the situation is sufficiently straightforward, I can give you some advice and then you can handle the application on your own.
Guardianship & Conservatorship
If your loved one has lost cognitive capacity and does not have an acceptable health care proxy or durable power of attorney, then you might need the probate court to appoint a guardian (to make health care decisions) and/or a conservator (to handle finances and real estate). If you need this, you have two options: If a hospital or nursing home is telling you that you need a guardianship and/or conservatorship, they may have their attorney handle it, for free. If that’s the case, just make sure that the attorney is naming someone that the family agrees would be a good choice. If the free work is not an option for you, then call me and I can handle the guardianship and/or conservatorship for you. (Pro tip: Don’t ever put your family in this position – instead get your ducks in a row now and sign a health care proxy and power of attorney!)
Stimulus Checks to the Deceased
Some of you have received stimulus checks made out to persons no longer living. Turns out, you need to send those back. If you still have the check, you can mail it to the IRS. If you cashed it or received it by direct deposit, you will need to write out a check to mail to the IRS. Here are the (very clear) directions from the IRS on how and where to mail it (see Q41).
Pick the Lawyer’s Brain
Go bold or go home. Oh wait, I’m already working from home. In any event, I’m trying something new: a Zoom call to ask me anything related to elder law, special needs planning, veterans benefits, or estate planning. Let’s try this and see how it goes! Thursday, May 14 from 2:00 – 2:30. Limited to 15 people. Reply to this newsletter, or email Doreen (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we will send you the login information.
Also I am converting a playhouse into a chicken coop, so I am happy to receive any and all chicken coop construction advice!
Be good to yourself and each other, and get outside to enjoy this glorious spring.
– Alexis & Doreen