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Tracking down a Retirement Account

Many individuals have worked for different companies throughout the years and may have had a 401(k) plan worth a small amount of money when they left.  Some people lose track of these accounts over the years or find that their plan was transferred to another administrator. Sometimes, in such a case, the administrator may not be able to locate the plan.  Unfortunately, there is no central repository for missing 401(k) funds to date.

 

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is responsible for safeguarding traditional pensions.  There is a proposal by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to hold orphaned 401(k) funds from closed plans which would start in 2018.  Senator Steve Daines and Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed that the IRS establish an online database that would allow individuals to locate 401(k) plans and pension plans from open and closed accounts.

 

If an individual’s 401(k) balance was less than $5,000 at the time they left a company, it is possible that a forced IRA transfer took place.  This means that the money would be housed with a small accounts financial services firm.  When an employer cannot locate an individual and they proceed to close the account, the money may be transferred to a bank account, IRA, or state escheat office.  If this took place, a person has the option to contact the state escheat office to locate the unclaimed money. Another option is, if the employer is still in business, an individual may contact them directly to see what happened to the account.  Further, if the company no longer exists, the United States Department of Labor may be able to help track down the money.

 

Tracking down lost retirement accounts can be a tedious process.  That is why it is of utmost importance to always keep track of retirement plans. There are many instances when employers may allow their employees to transfer old 401(k) accounts into their plan, or roll the money into an IRA. It is important to hold onto retirement money and consistently keep track of it, rather than attempting to locate it years later.

 

Maintaining good records is an important aspect of estate planning. If you or a loved one needs assistance tracking down a retirement account, or any other aspect of estate planning or elder law, contact the experienced elder law attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. for the representation you deserve and to ensure that your future plans are carried out. Call us today at (718) 210-4744 for more information or to schedule a consultation.

 

Nursing Home Discharges: Can You Appeal?

There are many reasons why elderly persons wind up in nursing homes, including voluntary admittance to obtain assistance with rehabilitation after a hospital stay or problematic behaviors associated with various mental conditions such as dementia. In order to afford nursing home costs, many of these adults rely on Medicaid and Medicare. A nursing home may choose to discharge a person for various reasons, including their coverage is running out or they feel the patient is ready for release.  However, if a resident is being discharged, the discharge can be challenged.

There are only five reasons in which a resident can be discharged: (1) the resident’s health has improved, (2) the resident’s needs cannot be met by the facility, (3) the health and safety of other residents is endangered, (4) the resident has not paid after receiving notice, or (5) the facility has stopped operating.

Sometimes, to get around the policy, the nursing home may transfer the patient to a hospital and then refuse to let them back in. In this case, state law requires that the hospital must hold their bed for a certain number of days. (A resident should check their policy to see the amount of time allotted for the hold.)

Without proper notice and planning, a nursing home is unable to discharge a resident at all. The discharge plan must ensure that the resident has a safe place to go and outline the care that they will receive. In general, written notice must be given to the resident 30 days before discharge. In emergency situations, the amount of time may be decreased.

Even if the above notices are given to the resident, they can still appeal a decision to discharge. For residents receiving government-funded healthcare assistance, there is a fast appeal if they are receiving care at a Medicare-covered facility, home health agency, rehabilitation facility, or hospice. The fast appeal is filed through the Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization. During this appeal, the nursing home will be required to provide you with a “detailed explanation of non-coverage,” which will lay out when and why your services will no longer be continued. The Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization will then ask why you believe the services should continue, review your records, and issue a decision by the close of business that day. The appeal process of a nursing home discharge can be overwhelming, so contacting an attorney immediately is recommended.

Taking proper care of the disabled and elderly in our society who depend on us is of the utmost importance. If you have questions about the care of a disabled or elderly loved one, contact an experienced New York elder law attorney who can help. For more information, contact Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 for the quality representation that you deserve.

Will the State Enforce Mandatory Arbitration Clauses in New York Nursing Homes?

The use of arbitration clauses by companies in all aspects of daily living has spread immensely across the country. The United States Supreme Court has recently held that the use of arbitration clauses is fully enforceable, and nearly impossible to overturn. With that being said, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has limited the use of these clauses by implementing a new rule that restricts any nursing home receiving federal funding from requiring residents to resolve disputes in arbitration rather than in court. While the rule does not forbid arbitration completely, it does restrict the use of pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements. The rule will take effect over all nursing home admissions agreements signed after November 28, 2016.

The new rule ensures that a patient is no longer required to settle their dispute in arbitration, which can be costly. Instead, the patient can take their disputes to court which can be a more cost effective route of bringing a claim. A claim brought in arbitration can cost a patient upwards of tree-times as much as bringing an action within the court system due to the increased cost of fees for the arbitrators.

On the other side, nursing homes argue that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stepped outside of their statutory authority as the rule does nothing to protect the residents’ health and safety. The nursing homes also argue that the additional cost to them of fighting these claims in court will force some nursing homes to close.

The New York Times reports that this new rule will not only save patients money in filing a claim, but it will restrict nursing homes from keeping embarrassing practices hidden in arbitration. The switch from arbitration to the court system means that all claims will become public rather than privately adjudicated. It is believed by patients that this transparency will ensure that the nursing homes will provide adequate services.

While the rule only applies to nursing homes receiving federal funding, New York State Public Health Law provides a statutory cause of action for nursing home residents as a result of injuries in any nursing home in New York State. Currently, a case is seeking review from the New York State Court of Appeals to determine whether the New York Statute makes an arbitration clause invalid. In this case, the trial court ruled that the statute invalidated the arbitration clause signed by an elderly woman who sued a nursing home after falling and breaking her hip. The NYS Court of Appeals overturned this decision by stating that the Federal Arbitration Act of preempts the state law because the nursing home engages in interstate commerce. A decision is expected in January 2017 as to whether the NYS Court of Appeals will grant a hearing on the decision.

Taking proper care of the disabled and elderly in our society who depend on us is of the utmost importance. If you have questions about the care of a disabled or elderly loved one, contact the experienced New York elder law attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 for the quality representation that you deserve.

New York Required to Hand Over Records on Disabled Patients

On March 18, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe ruled that the Cuomo administration and New York’s Justice Center must disclose records related to the abuse of disabled and mentally ill patients in the State’s care. Disability Rights New York (DRNY) has requested records involving disabled youths and adults who were allegedly abused, on multiple occasions but all of the requests were denied.

The plaintiff, DRNY, is an organization that advocates for the protection of the civil and legal rights of people in New York with disabilities. They have the obligation to investigate the abuse of individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities. To fulfil that obligation, DRNY wanted to see the full investigative reports that New York Justice Center completed, including the names of staff accused of committing abuse or neglect, names of those who filed complaints, and clinical records. The Justice Center is a New York State run state agency established to protect people with special needs from mistreatment, and often investigates abuse allegations throughout the state.

During the trial, the Justice Center argued that it should be allowed to redact information such as names and details in clinical records before handing over records. The Judge disagreed, and stated that if the Justice Center did not turn over the records or provided records that were redacted information, DRNY’s mandate to advocate for disabled New Yorkers would be impeded.

Taking proper care of the disabled and elderly in our society who depend on us is of the utmost importance. If you have questions about the care of a disabled or elderly loved one, contact an experienced New York elder law attorney who can help. For more information, contact Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 for the quality representation that you deserve.

The Musical Icon Prince May Have Died Without a Will

According to documents obtained by People Magazine, Prince did not have a Last Will and Testament. Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson filed an Emergency Petition in a Minnesota Court seeking the appointmeprincent of a Special Administrator.

Sources report Prince’s sister as stating, “I do not know of the existence of a Will and have no reason to believe that the Decedent executed testamentary documents in any form,” states the document, which was filed in Carver County Minnesota.

An Administrator is appointed to settle an estate after a person has died.  A petition must be filed with the court and a personal representative must be appointed.  The personal representative is responsible for the following:

  • Collection, inventory, and appraisal of assets of the person who has died.
  • Protection of the estate’s assets.
  • Payment of decedent’s debts.
  • Distribution of the remaining assets to the proper parties as provided by law.

According to a survey conducted by FindLaw.com, 35% of those surveyed had a Will but individuals over the age of 65 did execute a Will. Without a Will, property passes according to the State’s intestacy laws.

Some sources believe that Prince’s current estate is valued at over $300 million dollars. The failure to execute a Will may result in his property being distributed in a manner contrary to what he may have wanted during his life.

If you or a loved one needs a Last Will and Testament or other Advanced Directives, contact the experienced attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 to ensure that your property passes to those you choose and not according to the laws of intestacy.

Protecting Loved Ones from Elder Abuse

Finding professional and caring home care services for an elderly family member can be challenging.  Families express concerns over the prevention of elder abuse and how they can protect a loved one’s legal rights.  Seeking advice from an experienced elder law attorney can help you make the right decisions when it comes to your elderly loved ones.

There are several forms of elder maltreatment, including emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse, and financial abuse.  Some studies report as much as 25 percent of elderly adults are abused in some fashion at the hands of caregivers.  Caregivers can be paid employees or family members.

One obstacle in remedying elder abuse is identifying it in the first place.  Older adults may have dementia or other health issues, that may cause them to have a disheveled appearance.  Separating the cases where an individual’s grooming issues are caused by maltreatment, as opposed to it being an effect of medical and psychological concerns, is not as easy as one might think.  Additionally, it may be necessary for caregivers to take precautions, such as physical restraints, to safeguard an individual’s safety.  Each case must be analyzed on an individual basis because the circumstances may lead to a finding of maltreatment, or may be a justifiable safety measure.

Another obstacle facing abuse is the secrecy surrounding issues of elder abuse.  According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are approximately 65.7 million informal and family caregivers in America.  Due to such a high number of family and informal caregivers, many times elder abuse is not discussed or reported.  Aside from instances of intentional abuse, caregivers can often suffer from fatigue and lack of resources to adequately care for their loved one which can lead to unintentional neglect or abuse.

Choosing the right caregiver and planning for long term care are very difficult and important decisions you and your family will have to make.  Contact an experienced New York elder law attorney who can help.  For more information, contact Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 for the quality representation that you deserve.

Caregivers Kept in the Loop with NY CARE Law

The Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable Act (CARE), signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on October 14, 2015, has been fully enacted as of January 7, 2016.  The law requires hospitals to allow a caregiver to be added to a patient’s record when being admitted.  The law goes further in requiring hospitals to keep the caregiver well informed about how to care for the patient, even training the caregiver before the patient is discharged.

In New York, there are approximately 4.1 million New Yorkers acting as caregivers, often for a family member, and many times unpaid.  Caregivers are usually lacking in proper training because they are family or friends, which can increase the number of patient hospital or doctor visits.  The New York State Senate estimates that the total value of unpaid care reaches approximately $32 billion each year.

CARE was enacted because of the strains on the health system, based on the fact that patients are often readmitted to a hospital when not receiving professional care at home.  Additionally, in many instances caregivers are not kept updated about the patient’s care and what treatment is necessary after discharge.  CARE enables caregivers to be better prepared to meet the needs of their loved one, which in turn will hopefully avoid preventable medical costs down the line.  This law also comes at minimal cost to the taxpayers of New York, but substantially benefits the growing population of elderly individuals.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver for a loved one, it is best to consult with an experienced elder law attorney who can guide clients in making the necessary arrangements and help with protecting the rights of the caregiver and patient.  The attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. are available for consultation by calling 866-825-1529.

Nursing Home Chain Settles with New York Attorney General for $600K

Recently, the New York State Office of the Attorney General announced that a New York nursing home chain, Elant, settled with its office for $600,000 stemming from claims that they benefited financially by prolonging residents’ stays longer than necessary.  The nursing home chain admitted that several patients who were meant to be short term were transferred to one of their locations in financial peril.  The transfer was against the wishes and consent of the residents and their families, and was meant to generate income for the location and assist in remedying the financial condition.  Attorney General Schneiderman remarked that his office is dedicated to combating such practices and will “find those who use patients to siphon off critical taxpayer funds.”

The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the New York State Department of Health engaged in a joint investigation that revealed the illegalities occurring.  The agencies discovered that the practice of retaining patients longer than necessary was aimed at patients who were the recipients of Medicare or Medicaid.  The patients were also provided with additional and unnecessary services during the period of delay despite the fact that the patients were seeking to be discharged.

Also resulting from the investigation were the license revocations of two former Chief Executives of the nursing home chain, and two former administrators.  Both former CEOs and an additional administrator voluntarily surrendered their licenses.  Additionally, the Attorney General is overseeing that new practices be put in place at Elant to safeguard the patients’ best interests and prevent the exploitation of vulnerable residents.  The chain is also required to enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.

If you believe that your loved one has been mistreated or been taken advantage of by a nursing home, contact an experienced attorney who has the skill and knowledge to handle such matters.  The Law Offices of Tanya Hobson-Williams has handled numerous nursing home claims including those of abuse and neglect.  For more information, call the Law Offices of Tanya Hobson-Williams toll free at (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744.

 

New Federal Nursing Home Rating System Causes Lower Scores

Choosing a nursing home for yourself or your loved one can be challenging and emotionally taxing.  With so many stories about nursing home abuse and neglect, it can take a lot of research to find a location you feel comfortable with.  However, even the pricey nursing homes may not have the nicest accommodations or provide the best health care.  A few weeks ago, the federal government put a new nursing home rating system into effect.  The goal is to provide a more accurate rating system for nursing homes that reflects the quality of accommodation and care the residents receive.   Approximately 80% of the nursing homes originally received 4 or 5 star ratings based on the old criteria.  However, the ratings were mostly inaccurate due to the lack of specificity and different criteria of the previous rating system.

On the new rating system, 1/3 of nursing homes received a lower score than they had received originally, due to the more stringent requirements implemented in determining quality of care.  Now, only half of the nursing homes received a 4 or 5 star rating.  Use of anti-psychotic drugs was a factor that was analyzed under the new system that caused many ratings to drop due to the risks to health they pose in residents who do not require them for specific conditions.  This factor was analyzed more closely due to the growing concern of nursing homes overmedicating their patients.  In addition, staffing levels were looked at more closely due to the correlation between quality care and adequate staffing.

Additional new measures are expected to be implemented in 2016.

Choosing a nursing home and planning for long term care are very difficult and important decisions you and your family will have to make.  Contact an experienced New York elder law attorney who can help.  For more information, contact Tanya Hobson-Williams P.C. at (718) 210-4744 for the quality representation that you deserve.

Nursing Homes Using Guardianship Rights to Collect Debts

Nursing Homes Using Guardianship Rights to Collect Debts

The New York Times recently exposed several startling scenarios in which nursing homes have attempted to gain guardianship rights over residents in an effort to collect payment.  According to research done by Hunter College, the practice of nursing homes filing for guardianship of residents is becoming increasingly common.  In the last ten years, out of 700 guardianship cases brought to court in Manhattan alone, 12% were filed by nursing homes.

If a Guardian is appointed due to the efforts of the nursing home, they are often awarded not only reimbursement of their legal fees out of the incapacitated persons funds but they could also be granted payment of their nursing home bills and obtain other rights over the incapacitated persons finances. It is legal for nursing homes to hire counsel to petition for the appointment of a Guardian and in some cases it may be necessary.  However, the intent of Article 81 of the New York State Mental Hygiene Law has been increasingly abused.  The intent was that guardianship was to be a last resort and only granted for the benefit of the person for whom it is appointed.   Families whose loved ones reside in nursing facilities may be thrust into the vortex of an expensive and lengthy legal battle as a result of the exploitation of the statute.

In a recent heartbreaking case mentioned by the Times last month, an 82 year old man was forced to undergo the anguish of watching his wife of 47 years lapse into dementia while being terrorized by the looming threat of litigation.  Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home had petitioned for guardianship of the woman after her nursing home bills co-payment had doubled to $4,558.54 per month, making it impossible for the couple to keep up with payments.  The woman had appointed her husband as health proxy and power of attorney in the event of incapacity.  However, the nursing home had left a stack of legal papers near her bedside for her husband to find.  It was a petition brought by the nursing home to have a guardian appoited over his wife despite the validly executed power of attorney.

If your relative is in a nursing home that has petitioned for guardianship, or you are just in the process of planning for their long term care, find out how to protect your loved one and contact experienced elder law attorney, Tanya Hobson-Williams. The attorneys at Tanya Hobson-Williams are available to set up a consultation at 866-825-1529.