Imagine receiving a phone call that your child is in the hospital thousands of miles away, and the doctors and nurses refuse to provide you with medical information about his or her condition. This is a very real situation that occurs when medical directives are not in place for adult children. Eighteen-year-olds are adults under the eyes of the law. Your son or daughter can vote, get married, make a will, sign a contract, open a bank account and get medical treatment – all without your approval. More importantly, this means that you no longer have the right to speak with your child’s doctors, make medical decisions, pay his/her bills, or access medical records without consent.

This is an ideal time to have a conversation with your child about the responsibilities of becoming an adult, and how to put plans in place to take over if they are unable to make decisions. In case of a medical emergency, the following documents will ensure that your son’s or daughter’s wishes will be carried out by the agent(s) he or she appoints.

Power of Attorney for Heath Care. This is also called a Medical Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. This document can be effective immediately or when one becomes incapacitated, thereby granting the appointed agent the right to obtain medical information and to make medical decisions. Without this power of attorney in place, if your college student ends up in the ER, the hospital may refuse to provide you information about your child.

If you are moving to a nursing home and want to protect your home from Medicaid, you might think that transferring your home to your children is a good way to protect it.  Although you don’t typically need to sell your home to qualify for Medicaid coverage of nursing home care, after you die, the state must attempt to recover from your estate whatever benefits it paid for your care if Medicaid had helped cover the cost of the nursing home (this is referred to as “estate recovery”). Transferring your house to your children in order to protect it from estate recovery is not ideal for a number of reasons.

First, transferring your home can make you ineligible for Medicaid for a certain amount of time. The state Medicaid agency looks for transfers made within five years of the Medicaid application and if any transfers were made for less than market value, the state imposes a penalty period in which you are not eligible for benefits.

However, you can typically avoid this penalty when transferring your home to the following:

Our firm is always stressing the need for Healthcare Powers of Attorney and Living Wills which are examples of healthcare directives.   Remember, that the Healthcare Power of Attorney is a document that names an agent to make healthcare decisions for you should you lack capacity to make those choices.  It not only pertains to decisions concerning life sustaining treatment if death is imminent, but also pertains to those situations where death is not imminent.

By contrast, the Living Will is a document which is restricted to those situations when death is imminent.  It is basically a written pronouncement by you that you do not want life sustaining measures taken if those procedures only delay the dying process. Unlike the Power of Attorney for Healthcare, an agent is not appointed and the health provider must continue to administer food and water.

But what if you have neither  a Power of Attorney for Healthcare nor a Living Will, your death is imminent and you lack the capacity to make medical treatment and life sustaining decisions? This is when the Illinois Healthcare Surrogate Act will apply. The Act generally allows for family members, friends, guardians and other named persons to make these type of decisions.

For years, attorneys, accountants, financial planners, and insurance sale persons have been touting the benefits of long-term care insurance. “Buy in your 50s and you will never have to worry about your future long-term care expenses ever again” was the common refrain. It was sound advice. With the right long-term care policy your problems were solved. Daily benefit rates typically covered the lion’s share of the daily private pay rate preserving assets for much-needed extras and, in many cases, a tidy inheritance for the next generation.

Unfortunately, any aging population, the unexpected popularity of assisted living facilities, and a steady increases in the cost of care has made it all but impossible for insurance companies to continue to provide the promised levels of benefits without increasing premiums. It can be argued that insurance companies should have seen the baby-boomers coming but no one anticipated that so many seniors would prefer to transition to an assisted living facility foregoing the in-home care option. Insurance companies also expected a much higher percentage of customers to cancel coverage. A common theme across all types of elective insurance coverage types. The constant refrain from professional advisers to clients recommending that they retain long-term care insurance at all costs had the unintended effect of making LTC insurance untenable for insurers.

All of these unanticipated and unintended consequences has had a real impact on seniors. In some cases, premiums have as much as doubled in the past two years and Mass Mutual, one of the largest LTC insurance underwriters, is about to ask regulators to authorize an average increase in premiums of 77 percent.

Recently, a lawsuit was filed against the Illinois Department of Human and Family Services over delays in the processing of claims for Medicaid benefits. Although the lawsuit focuses primarily on applications for community Medicaid and health insurance benefits, delays by IDHFS in processing Medicaid claims for long-term care benefits can have a dramatic effect on those seniors requiring assistance to pay for long-term nursing home care.

A quick synopsis of the Medicaid system as it applies to nursing home benefits:

Medicaid (not to be confused with Medicare) is a government program funded by both state and federal resources to help seniors and disabled individuals with limited resources pay for long-term care. Although Medicare will cover short-term stays in a nursing home for rehabilitation and some respite care, Medicare provides no benefit to those seniors that need to move to a nursing home on a permanent basis.

The latest the telephone scam  is the “IRS Phone Call” from an IRS agent.  The scam works like this:  The caller who claims to be an IRS agent tells the person that he/she is an employee of the IRS and that he owes back taxes and must pay them immediately.  The ” agent” then tells them that the victim must pay by wire, credit card, prepaid debit or gift card.  The scammer goes on to say if these taxes are not paid immediately, they are risking losing his home, being arrested or even deported.  According to Kiplinger Tax Letter (vol.93, no.7), Seniors and low-income individuals are the most at risk. (This scam is much akin to the “grandson”  calling the grandmother (usually an older adult that has grandkids) that he is in jail and needs bail money to get out.  Of course, the grandson is a scammer who pretends to be her grandson asking for some quick money.) Most of these fraudulent calls are perpetrated around April 15th- tax time.

The truth is that the IRS never makes phone calls stating that you owe taxes or that a refund is coming your way.  The procedure is that the IRS contacts you by mail.

The latest scheme is for the scammer  to file a fake income tax return with your private information and have the refund distributed to one of your accounts.  Then the scammer calls as an IRS agent telling the victim that there was fraud in the tax return and that the victim must send the refund back to the scammer’s address or wire destination.(Business Insider, The IRS isn’t calling you-it’s a scam and here’s what to do if it happens to you, by Tanya Loudenback 4/4/18.)

Medicaid funds long-term care services for low-income individuals, but 48 states have opted to give assisted living residents the ability to receive Medicaid benefits, mostly through Medicaid “waiver” programs that promote home health care.  More than 330,000 people in assisted living are receiving more than $10 Billion in benefits to pay for those services.  Because the number of individuals receiving long-term care services from Medicaid in ALFs 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 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 the consider a critical incident. While all 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 treat of suicide at the ALFs.

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

Medicare has terminated your coverage for a physical therapist, nurse or speech therapist.  The health care provider states that you have “plateaued” , ‘have not improved” or require “maintenance services” only.  In addition, the health care provider states that you must pay out of pocket if you want to continue these services.  However, you and your physician opine that you need these services and that they are medically necessary. So what should you do?  Appeal Medicare’s decision.

The initial document you will receive before termination is a “Notice of Medicare Provider Non-Coverage” or a” Generic Notice” from your health care provider.  When you receive this notice, immediately call the Beneficiary and Family-Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization, or BFCC-QIO.  The phone number will be on the notice that you have received.  Fax to them a written opinion by your physician that the services are “medically necessary” and that your health will be jeopardized if services are dis continued.  In addition, have the health provider deliver your records to BFCC-QIO and a copy to you.

The BFCC-QIO must make a decision within 72 hours of receipt of your appeal.  If they agree with you coverage will be continued, if they don’t then you have to pay out of pocket for those services.

Older parents are becoming more common, driven in part by changing mores and surrogate motherhood.  Comedian and author Steve Martin had his first child at age 67.  Singer Billy Joel just welcomed his third daughter. Janet Jackson had a child at 50. But later-life parents have some special estate planning and retirement considerations.

The first consideration is to make sure you have an estate plan and that estate plan is up to date.  One of the most important functions of an estate plan is to name a guardian for your children in your will and this goes double for a parent having children late in life.  If you don’t name someone to act as guardian, the court will choose the guardian.  Because the court does not know your kids like you do, the person they choose may not be ideal.

In addition to naming a guardian, you may  also want to set up a trust for your children so that your assets are set aside for them when they get older.  If a child is the product of the second marriage, a trust may be a particularly important.  A trust can give your spouse rights, but allow someone else-the trustee-the power to manage the property and protect it for the next generation.  If you have older children, a trust could, for example, provide for a younger child’s education and then divide the remaining amount among all of the children.

When a non-lawyer ventures into the world of probate or guardianship, one item that usually causes confusion is the requirement for the representative to post a bond. Under Illinois law, a court-appointed representative is required to post a bond which covers 150% of the value of the personal estate. This requirement is in place for anyone serving as guardian of an estate for a person with a disability. It is also required for the administrator or executor of a decedent’s estate. Although in the case of decedents estates, the requirement for a bond can be waived, but only if the waiver is explicitly stated in the decedent’s will.

So what does a bond do? In essence, it acts like an insurance policy that protects the estate from the actions by the representative. The representative (although it can usually be paid out of the estate’s funds) is required to pay an annual premium which is a fraction of the full amount of coverage. The bond company then insures and protects the assets of the estate from any potential losses.

How does one actually acquire a bond? Most counties have their own standardized forms which the representative would need to sign called a “surety bond” form. This document needs to be signed and notarized and then sent to the bond company for execution. The bond companies also have their own forms and applications which need to be completed by the representative before they will approve the bond. In some counties, the bond companies have representatives who spend a portion of their day in the courthouse, which makes it easier to obtain a bond on short notice.