Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year

  From Left to Right:  Brad, Tyler, Richard, Helen, Jadranko

At the law firm of Bradley Vauter & Associates, P.C. we also call ourselves “the place for good counsel.”  We want to be the place you turn to in order to get information or advice or help when you need it–and we want folks to think about seeing us sooner rather than later.  An hour of our time in advance of a major transaction, BEFORE you sign on the dotted line or BEFORE a deadline looms in something important, can often actually save you money or costly trouble in the long run.  It’s always smart to think through the possible IMPACT of an action, or contract or response BEFORE you get locked in, we believe. Let us be your counselors and advisers soon–we still have office hours between now and the New Year.  And God willing, we will be around in 2018 to help you in our many practice areas.  Call us at 517 853-8015 to set up an appointment soon. In the meantime, from all of us–Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to you and yours!

Next-of-kin, estrangement, and taking control

When we help clients with “estate planning’ we also discuss planning for events while they are still living. Many of us have ideas about what to do with our legacy or estate, once we are dead. We might have family or friends or charities in mind–people or organizations who would take after our death because of provisions in our will or trust, or even because we have simply named the person or organization as a beneficiary after our death on an account at a bank or credit union or IRA.

But what would happen if we became quite disabled before we died? Is there a way we can sort of “take control” even though we are disabled?  Some advocates say yes, if you work hard at it.  But even more folks say, the time to “take control” is before you lose control–in other words, line up your choices and make some decisions AND PUT THEM IN WRITING, before you ever become severely disabled.

Have you thought about naming someone/something who could help with your financial and business affairs (sometimes this might even include a financial institution if your holdings are large or sophisticated) while you are living?

How about your medical affairs? Who have you picked to speak for you, should you be so disabled that doctors don’t think you understand what is going on, and medical treatment decisions (starting or switching or stopping treatments, for instance) are needed? In Michigan parents DO NOT automatically get to speak for their young adult children such as the 19-year-old still in college or trade school, nor–a surprise to many–is a spouse legally allowed to decide for a spouse without documents in place or a court order.

The law in Michigan, through Michigan’s statutes, gives a preference for these issues to next-of-kin BUT that preference arises when we haven’t made the decision in advance, and put it in writing. Without a bit of planning and work court involvement might be needed–a hassle and expense in a time of crisis or mourning that you can usually avoid by getting documents set up ahead of time.

For the times when we might be alive but not able to handle our own affairs, the usual documents needed are a durable power of attorney (the business and financial affairs of life) and a medical power of attorney/designation of patient advocate (medical decision making when we are alive but incompetent). Sometimes a trust can help as well–in the financial/business arena.

When we are dead, the most common document to come in handy is a will (or a trust, or both) and one can also have a personal property distribution list, and a funeral representative named if you so desire.

As a recent article in the New York Times indicates, we should not always assume that “next-of-kin” are the natural choice after all–estrangement among family members is not uncommon. And even among families who have been keenly supportive of one another, not all our relatives are equally able to step into our shoes while we are living, nor be smart choices to wrap up our affairs once we die.

Our firm takes the time to talk through some of these issues with you for better planning and to help create documents that will be helpful and not merely perfunctory.  We have created a sort of estate and life planning questionnaire that we can send to folks before they meet with us, so that our meetings then are productive and informative, and in order that we can eventually create a tailored estate plan at a still reasonable cost.  Give us a call soon if you’d like to create or update your life and estate planning.

As to the New York Times article, you can find it here: https://mobile.nytimes.com/…/debunking-myths-about-estrange…

National Coming Out Day

October 11th is sometimes called “National Coming Out Day.”
The theory of the “day” being an idea that folks who actually know some gays or lesbians or trans folks among family or friends or co-workers tend to be more supportive of all such folks, and more guarded about legislation that might have a bias against lgbt individuals.
It would seem in our modern age, with gays and lesbians on mainstream tv as characters and all, such a day would have little use or meaning.
And sadly, some younger lgbt folks seem to still struggle a lot.  While we may not know how solid the stats are, it does seem like younger people, perhaps pressuring themselves, or feeling pressure from other quarters, still struggle greatly.  Purportedly  their suicide risk is higher, and they have other struggles too that seem out of whack given the relative small numbers.  See for example this piece:   https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/left-behind-lgbt-homeless-youth-struggle-survive-streets-n157506
For the senior end of the age spectrum, there have been SAGE projects and similar programs around for a while. Here is an example from the metro Detroit SAGE section of their website:   https://www.sageusa.org/advocacy/sagenet-affiliate.cfm?ID=29
And for homeless youth and others there is a project, more or less national in scope, called the Trevor project, of which you can learn more here:  http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
 
Finally, a legal group that has been around a long time, called Lambda Legal, with offices scattered around the country is also a resource.  Their website is here:  https://www.lambdalegal.org/
Our firm also helps serve the LGBT community.  You can find more information elsewhere on our website, including in our useful resources section.

Medicare Advocacy and “Failure to Improve” or “Plateaus”

Those who accept Medicare as payment–meaning almost every hospital, almost every nursing home and most doctors and rehab specialists in the country–sometimes worry about being audited.  Their records can be checked a year or so after they have billed for services, and been paid, for services.  It might make an administrative person with such providers anxious–what if they have to pay back something to Medicare, after all?

Audits are smart and help reduce error and fraud.  But if providers over-react and become too cautious because of audits those who use Medicare can suffer.  This is so because for a long time an informal and improper metric has been used by providers, and the metric puts Medicare users at a real disadvantage.

Watch out for these old terms, still used at times now: “failure to improve” or “plateau.” Those terms have been used informally for a long time. You might hear it even now when you are trying to see about services for a loved one who has Medicare coverage. Coverage denials based on that alone are improper and unfair.

Those on Medicare who want more therapy or services, in hopes of maintaining some small part of their health or abilities, or better levels of care that might let them return home, have been often told by facilities or providers that Medicare wouldn’t help reimburse or pay for such services. Scary stuff, as many seniors would find it tough to pay for much in the way of such services themselves for more than a few weeks.

Medicare does not provide unlimited coverage, as we know.  But be prepared to challenge some denials of care coverage if it seems proper.  Remember, the “failure to improve” or the “he/she’s reached a plateau” is not the right metric.  Actually under the regulation and law, maintaining a patient’s current condition or preventing or slowing a patient’s further decline or deterioration is a sufficient reason to obtain services.

Feel free to gently push back against providers if you are given this line, or call an elder law firm like ours to review the situation.

Rather than writing a full dissertation though, I suggest folks check this website–a feisty group sued (the case is Jimmo v Siebelius) to get clarification of this issue to help the aged and disabled, and here is their question and answer page about the issue: http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/jimmo-v-sebelius-the-improvement-standard-case-faqs/

Not all care is the same?

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