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Government Benefits

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Can Medicaid place a lien against the apartment?


Recently someone asked me a question: if an co-op apt. is owned jointly by spouses with right of survivorship, can Medicaid enforce a lien against the estate or the decedent's interest in the co-op when the joint owner who was a Medicaid recipient dies?

There is a prohibition against placing a lien on the estate of a deceased Medicaid recipient if the recipient is survived by a spouse. As long as there is a surviving spouse, there can be no lien against the estate of the deceased Medicaid recipient.
But - the Medicaid lien is held in abeyance. When the second spouse dies, a lien can be placed against the second spouse's estate to recover Medicaid benefits paid to the first spouse.
Read more . . .


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Medicare does not pay for home care!


Even though some seniors may be entitled to home care through their Medicare benefits, it may be impossible for them to receive this needed care.

And that is why most people plan for Medicaid - not because they are trying to cheat the system, but because they have no other real choice. 

 

http://www.
Read more . . .


Monday, March 14, 2016

What are the current methods of maximizing one’s social security payments?

Now that the “file and suspend” loophole has been eliminated (effective April 30, 2016), what other strategies remain for maximizing one’s social security payments?

1.   The main strategy is, of course, to delay the receipt of social security. At full retirement age, a worker is entitled to receive 100% of his Social Security retirement benefits. However, for each year that the worker delays the receipt of his benefits, he will receive an 8% delayed retirement credit. At age 70, however, one cannot delay any further and is obligated to receive the income. As a result, if the worker delays the receipt of his benefits until age 70 his benefit will increase by a total of 32%.

Of course, the downside of this strategy is that during the years that the worker delayed the receipt of his benefit, he was not receiving any payments from Social Security.  As a result, this strategy only works for people who have an alternative source of income during these years of deferment, either through continued employment or through savings.

Furthermore, this strategy works only for workers who are in relatively good health and expected to live for a long period in retirement.  If the worker develops an unexpected illness and dies sooner than he expected, the overall receipt of money will be significantly less than if he had chosen to receive full retirement benefits at full retirement age.

2.   Another strategy involves survivor benefits. Depending on the survivor’s work record, the survivor has a choice. She can either (i) receive full survivor benefits at age 60 and delay the receipt of her own larger benefit at the age of 70 or (ii) take her own benefits at the age of 62 and then switch over to survivor benefits at full retirement age.

3.   Yet another strategy involves benefits for divorced spouse. As long as the spouses were married for at least 10 years prior to divorce, and the individual has not remarried, the ex-spouse may claim spousal benefits based on an ex-spouse’s earning records. This strategy may be very beneficial, as the ex-spouse may claim her spousal benefits at full retirement age and delay the receipt of her own retirement benefits until the age of 70.

 

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING


 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

There is a lot of government help available for low income seniors.

This article is an invaluable resource. It lists all the various government programs that are available to senior citizens, with links to criteria and additional information.

There is a lot of help available to seniors. The list of available programs includes, but is not limited to: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Property tax relief, legal help, housing vouchers and Supplemental Security Income.

The key is to know about them and have the ability or the knowledge to qualify.

http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/100214/retirement-strategies-low-income-seniors.asp?layout=orig


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

When is Medicaid entitled to recovery of benefits paid? Part 1

  1. If Medicaid was paid improperly, the Department of Social Services is entitled to recover all improperly paid benefits.

         If Medicaid discovers that an individual was ineligible because the information provided was false, there will be 3 steps taken. First, any further medical assistance will be discontinued. Second, the case can be referred to the local District Attorney office for criminal prosecution. Third, a lawsuit for the civil recovery may be commenced, to recover the money overpaid.

         The first step in this process is usually a letter, received by Medicaid recipient, informing him that he is being investigated for Medicaid fraud, and asking him to come in for an interview.

 

2.     Medicaid is entitled to recover from the estate of anyone who was 55 or older when the assistance was granted. However, this recovery is limited by several important considerations:

  1. The recovery is limited to benefits paid within 10 years of individual’s death.

  2. Medicaid is excluded from making a claim against the estate of an individual who is survived by a spouse, a minor child, or a disabled child. However, the lien is held in abeyance only. Once the surviving spouse dies, a lien can be placed against the second to die spouse’s estate to recover Medicaid benefits paid to the first spouse.

  3. Medicaid may only make the recovery from the probate assets of an individual (those assets that pass under a will or by administration if there is no Will, and not part of a revocable trust, life estate or joint tenancy agreement).

Medicaid is a preferred creditor. As a result, Medicaid’s lien must be satisfied before other creditor’s claims and before any bequests to beneficiaries are distributed.

Most Medicaid liens can be negotiated.

3. Medicaid is entitled to recover from the proceeds of an action arising from an accident or malpractice, as the result of which the injured party received Medicaid benefits.           

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Social Security Survival Benefits

Who is entitled to survivor benefits:  

A widow or a widower is entitled to full survivor benefits at the age of 66 (or 67, for people born after 1962). In order to qualify for the benefits, the spouse must have been married to the deceased for at least 9 months prior to death. Divorced spouses are entitled to the same survivor benefits (provided that the marriage lasted for at least 10 years).

An unmarried child is entitled to full survivor benefits until age 18 (or 19, if he is still attending a secondary school full time)

Dependent parents (defined as those whom the deceased supported for at least one half of their total income) are entitled to survivor benefits as well.

How much are survivor benefits:

The amount depends on (1) the earnings of the deceased (2) the age of the recipient spouse and (3) whether or not the recipient spouse continues to work.

The earnings of the deceased: of course, the more the deceased contributed to the Social Security system, the higher the survivor benefit amount will be for all recipients.

If the widow or widower has reached a full retirement age, then he / she will receive 100% of the deceased worker’s benefit amount. If the widow or widower has not reached a full retirement age, then he /she will receive between 71.5% and 99% of the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount.

If the widow / widower continues to work and he / she is below the full retirement age, then the survivor benefits will get reduced. If, on the other hand, the survivor is above the full retirement age, then the benefits do not get reduced, despite the additional income.

Surviving dependent parent is entitled to 82.5% of the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount.

The total amount a family can receive each month is between 150% and 180% of the basic benefit rate.

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Is Divorce the Best Option for People Over 65?

Your parents may have had a long and relatively happy marriage. They may intend to live together until their death. Nonetheless, the financial reality of today’s government rules may force them to consider divorce.  And there is no need for psychological counseling at this point. Divorce, with future cohabitation, would be done simply to qualify for long term care benefits.

Current Medicaid rules tacitly encourage divorce. In New York State, for people over 65, to qualify for Medicaid as an individual, one cannot have income of greater than $825 a month. A married couple cannot have income of greater than $1,209. Clearly, a divorced couple can shelter a greater amount of income than a married one. Furthermore, an individual on Medicaid cannot have assets of greater than $14,850. A married couple cannot have assets of greater than $21,750, again, penalizing a couple and encouraging divorce.

When only one spouse needs Medicaid (in order to receive home care or nursing home care), divorce may simply become a necessity in order to shelter some of the assets.  A ‘community spouse’ (the spouse which is not receiving Medicaid) is permitted to keep no more than $119,200 of assets, and no more than $2,980 of income per month. Any excess above these numbers may be subject to a Medicaid recovery lawsuit. As a result, the sick spouse may transfer all of his assets to his spouse, and then the spouses divorce.

The information in this blog was adapted from

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-amy-ziettlow/is-divorce-the-best-option-for-older-americans_b_6878658.html

 

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The importance of Using the Proper Language When Setting up a Special Needs Trust

In a recent New York case, In re Paradiso, the court did not reform a father’s will which left money in a trust to a disabled daughter. In the Will, the father attempted to create a testamentary special needs trust, which would not have jeopardized the daughter’s government benefits (Medicaid and SSI). However, the language that was used to create a trust was not the statutory language!

There is a statute, EPTL 7-1.12, which requires that the supplemental needs trust language must clearly show that the intent of the deceased was “to supplement, not supplant, impair or diminish, government benefits”. If there is no such precise language, the intent of the testator is not clear, and the Trust will not be considered a Special Needs Trust.

As a result, the father’s money went in a regular Trust to a disabled daughter. Since the government will consider this money available to her, she is likely to lose her government benefits. These benefits can range from housing assistance and vocational training to home care and a stipend for basic food needs. 

This result could have been avoided by talking to a special needs attorney, who would have drafted a proper testamentary Special Needs Trust.  

 

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.


Monday, March 2, 2015

What happens with government benefits if one gets an unexpected windfall?

There are many government programs: SSI, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. Most of these programs have thresholds for recipient’s income and assets. What happens when recipients receive an unexpected windfall – inheritance, personal injury award, etc? Can one retain both the money and the benefits? Can one decline the award? The answer depends on the type of benefit in question: 

SSI

Qualification: In order to qualify for SSI, one’s assets cannot exceed $2,000 (if single) and $3,000 (if married). Any uncompensated transfers of assets done within 3 years of SSI receipt will incur a penalty.

Effect of a windfall: if the SSI recipient receives a windfall, it is considered income in the month of receipt, and asset if retained until the next month. Any transfer of the asset will incur a penalty and a disqualification from the benefit. The only exception to this rule is for people who are below 65 and disabled; they are permitted to transfer the windfall to a Special Needs Trust for the benefit of themselves without losing their SSI benefit.

What to do: consider the amount of money received. If the amount is small, you may consider spending the money on yourself in the month of receipt. There are many things that one can do – house improvements, payment of debts, food, clothing, vacation, etc. As long as the money is spent within 1 month, the recipient will retain his eligibility for future months. 

If, on the other hand, the amount is large, you may consider transferring the money to a trust / relatives and then losing the benefit for the next 3 years. The maximum amount of SSI benefit in New York for 3 years is approximately $29,000. If the personal injury is $500,000, the loss of $29,000 is not that significant.

 

Medicaid

Qualification: depends on the age of the recipient and the type of Medicaid care that one is receiving.

If below age 65, not an SSI recipient and no disabilities, Medicaid considers only one’s income. Assets are not considered. Income thresholds depend on the number of people in the family and whether or not there are children.

If after age 65, Medicaid considers both income and assets. An individual’s assets cannot exceed $14,750 and income cannot exceed $825 per month.

Asset transfers: If one receives only home care or medical care, then Medicaid does not impose a penalty on asset transfers. On the other hand, if one is in a nursing home or will apply for nursing home care in the next 5 years, Medicaid imposes a penalty of up to 5 years. 

Effect of a windfall: If a Medicaid recipient receives a windfall, it is considered income in the month of receipt, and asset if retained until the next month. If one is below 65, one may either retain the asset or transfer it, and retain his eligibility for the future months.

What to do: If a Medicaid recipient is above 65, consider the amount of money and the type of care that is needed. Generally, seniors depend on Medicaid as their medical insurance, therefore retaining the assets and losing the benefit may not be an optimal solution. Consider first spending the money on your immediate needs (paying down debt, house repairs, etc). Then consider transferring the remaining money. Remember that if nursing home is needed in the 5 years after the transfer, Medicaid may impose a penalty and deny the benefits.

This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney client relationship.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Difference between Social Security, Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income

There are many acronyms in government benefits. This article explains the difference between most common Social Security benefits.

Social Security benefits are based on the individual’s earnings, averaged over the worker’s life.

Eligibility: To be eligible, an individual must have a minimum of 40 quarters of reported earned income. To receive full credit for the quarter, the amount of earnings is currently $1,200. This amount has been raised incrementally since 1977.

Age of eligibility: for people born after 1959, the age of retirement is currently 67 years. For people born between 1943 to 1954, the full retirement age is 66. Individuals may retire early and collect reduced Social Security benefits as early as age 62. The reduced level of benefits will continue for the rest of the individual’s life.

What income is counted: only earned income is considered when determining eligibility or benefit amounts. Unearned income, such as interests and dividends, is not counted.

Earnings Limitations on Benefits: for individuals between ages 62 and 65 collecting Social Security benefits, earnings above $15,480 will reduce Social Security benefits by $1 for each $2 of earnings in excess of $15,480. For individuals above age 65 collecting Social Security benefits, all earnings limitations have been eliminated.

 

Social Security Disability (“SSDI”) benefits are based on several criteria, including medical condition, age, prior earnings level, and period between termination of employment and the onset of disability. The case will be periodically reviewed, to ensure that the individual is still disabled.

Definition of disability: inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of no less than 12 months, taking into account the person’s age, education and past work history.

Determination of Eligibility:

  1. To be fully insured and eligible for Social Security Disability payments, an applicant must have 40 quarters of earnings. For workers under the age of 31, there is a special calculation.

  2. To be fully insured and eligible for Social Security Disability payments, an applicant must have reported earnings within 5 years prior to the onset of disability.

If the above 2 criteria are met, then:

  1. There are 5 criteria that Social Security Administration evaluates when determining eligibility, such as (a) substantial gainful employment at the time of the application, (b) severe impairment, (c) listed impairment, (d) past relevant work and (e) residual functioning capacity.

Medicare for Social Security Disability recipients

If an individual receives Social Security disability benefits for a continuous period of 24 months, he becomes eligible for Medicare Part A and B, without regard to age.

Reduction of Social Security Disability benefits

An individual’s benefits are not reduced if he has other sources of income, such as IRA accounts, pensions, insurance, SSI, or Veterans Administration benefits.

 

Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) is a federal program that pays a monthly cash stipend to indigent aged, blind or disabled individuals.

Eligibility:

1. Categories: There are 3 separate categories of people who are eligible to receive SSI:

a. Aged: people above 65 years of age

b. Blind: either total blindness or minimal vision that is incapable of correction

c. Disabled: people who are unable to perform any gainful employment because of a medical or mental condition that is expected to last for at least a year.

2. Resource test: an individual is entitled to have no more than $2,000 in resources (a married couple is entitled to no more than $3,000)

a. Certain assets are exempt from calculation, such as a primary residence, a car, and household goods

b. Assets held for the benefit of an individual in a Special Needs Trust, if structured properly, are also not considered resources

3. Income test: an individual’s income from all sources is considered when determining eligibility  

a. Certain income is exempt, such as food stamp benefits, German reparation payments, reverse mortgages, etc.

b. Other income is disregarded, such as the first $65 of earned income and the first $20 of unearned income.

Transfer of Assets

At the time of application, Social Security Administration will conduct an investigation into any transfers that were done by the applicant or his spouse in the past three years. A penalty will be calculated for all transfers that were made for less than a full market value. The penalty is calculated by dividing the amount gratuitously transferred by the maximum monthly benefit. The maximum penalty period is 3 years.  

Medicaid for SSI recipients

Any New York State resident who is eligible for SSI is automatically enrolled into the Medicaid program.

This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney client relationship.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Social Security “Spousal Benefits” – the money you never knew you had!

Spousal benefits are available to spouses, divorced spouses and widows / widowers. Married individuals can choose which Social Security benefit they will receive – their own or a percentage of their spouse’s, whichever is greater. The benefit of receiving the ‘spousal benefit’ is to delay the collecting spouse’s retirement age, and as a result, receive a larger Social Security Payment from her own earnings in the future.

When Should One Apply for Spousal Benefits:

Only after the both spouses reach the full retirement age (FRA). If you apply before the FRA, you may be permanently penalized and will not receive the full benefit of the program.

How Does It Work?

For example, Mary is 66 (her FRA), and her husband Jake is 67 (past his FRA). Jake is entitled to collect $2,000 from Social Security. Mary, if she were to start collecting her own social security benefit, would receive $800. Mary can either begin collecting her own benefit, or collect the $1,000 of the “spousal benefit” for the next 4 years (50% of Jake’s full benefit). As a result, she will delay collecting her own benefits until the age of 70. At the age of 70, she can begin collecting her own benefits, but at that point they will be 132% of the original amount - $1,056.

What If The Higher Earning Spouse Does Not Want to Collect His Own Benefit Yet?

In order for Mary to collect the “spousal benefit”, Jake needs to apply for his own benefit first. If he is not ready to start collecting yet, Jake can apply for benefits and then ‘suspend’ them. As a result, Mary will collect her spousal benefit based on Jake’s retirement benefit at the FRA. Simultaneously, by suspending the receipt of his own retirement benefits, Jake will be taking advantage of the increased benefits that he will receive after he turns 70. There is absolutely no downside to collecting ‘spousal benefits’.

Are These Benefits Available for Divorced Spouses?

Yes.  As long as you have been divorced for at least 2 years, the marriage lasted 10 years or longer, both you and your former spouse are aged 62 or older, and the former spouse is entitled to Social Security Benefits, you are entitled to ‘spousal benefits’.

Two additional benefits for divorced spouses:

  1. the former spouse does not need to know that the spouse has applied for ‘spousal benefit’

  2. the former spouse need not have filed (or filed and suspended) his own Social Security benefit in order for you to receive it.

Are These Benefits Available for Widows / Widowers?

At the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse will receive the larger of her own benefit or her husband's benefit, but not both. Therefore, it is beneficial for both spouses not to take their retirement benefits too early. The delay in collecting Social Security and maximizing  both spouse's benefits can act as another form of life insurance.

See more at: http://individual.troweprice.com/retail/pages/retail/applications/investorMag/2014/june/managing-it/index.jsp

This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney client relationship.


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