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In last week’s post, I started to tell you about what has been happening with increasing frequency to the Medicaid application process.  Denials have become almost routine and for reasons that range from flat out incorrect to the bizarre. For example, last week we received a Medicaid denial for failure to provide a deed or lease for a residence in a town that the caseworker believes my client lived.  This request was never raised before and we never provided these documents for the simple reason that my client never lived in that town.   Two of the client’s children happen to live in that town and I suspect that is where the caseworker somehow picked up this information. This type of request is actually not a first.  Last year, a Medicaid caseworker insisted my client owned a property she did not in fact own.  In that case, I was able to speak with the caseworker.  She had conducted a title search for property in the name of my client and her husband.  Their son had the same last name but was a “junior”.  She located a deed for property owned by the son and his wife, who had a different name than my client.  Nevertheless, she somehow considered that a potential asset of my client.  I was

Even before the current pandemic, getting a Medicaid application approved was increasingly challenging.  Now, with some government staff working remotely and many government offices short staffed because of social distancing requirements, it has not gotten better.  What we are finding in our office is that applications that should clearly be approved are being denied.  In some cases, Medicaid rules are misapplied and regulations are ignored.  In other instances, procedural requirements are not being followed.  It is difficult to get a caseworker on the phone to talk about a case.  One county does not have any one person assigned to a case.  Different employees work on different aspects of each case.  Letters from that county do not contain the name of any person that we can call.  Because filing a Medicaid application involves more than just the 16 page application, our filings typically include several hundred pages of documents or more.  That’s because the 5 year lookback requires that the applicant produce every statement for every account and investment owned within that time period.  Additionally, just about every Medicaid office is also requiring copies of every check written and deposited during that 60 month period.  This can easily result in 1000 pages of documents or more by the time the application process concludes.

In my post last week I began discussing the options to probate when an original will can’t be located.  Probate in New Jersey tends to be relatively inexpensive in comparison to many other states because appearances before a judge aren’t normally necessary and a bond isn’t usually required unless you can’t find the will.  Letters of administration can be applied for if no will is located by making an application to the Surrogate.  An administrator serves in the same role as does an executor.   New Jersey statute establishes who has the right to apply first, which is determined by closeness of relationship to the person who died (the decedent).  If, for example, the decedent had 6 children who all have equal right to serve but only one applies for the appointment, the others must sign a document declining to serve – known as a renunciation.  If any of them refuse to sign or cannot be located then the application must be made to a judge on notice to all parties who have an equal or greater right to serve.  Any party can oppose the application or request instead to be appointed and that’s where it can get quite messy and expensive.  The administrator must post a bond.  If the proposed administrator cannot qualify for

We all know the statistics.  110,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19 and climbing.  Our office has received more calls in the last 3 months regarding the need for estate administration than at any time that I can recall in the past 25 years.  In many instances the decedent (the person who died) had no will or at least none could be located.  In other cases, a copy has been found but not the original. As I have written in the past, New Jersey has an easy probate process when the original will exists.  An application for probate is presented by the proposed executor with the original will to the county Surrogate without the need to appear before a judge.  This is called common probate. Without the original will, however, estate administration involves an application by a proposed administrator and usually a bond is needed.  A surety company will issue the bond to protect the heirs and creditors should the administrator fail to carry out his/her duties. Depending on the size of the estate, this bond can be several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. If a copy of the will has been found but not the original, and there is no belief or

Many of my articles concern Medicaid and avoiding or trying to minimize a Medicaid penalty.  That penalty, which is a waiting period for benefits is a result of a mathematical calculation.  The amount of any transfers for less than fair value is divided by the Medicaid divisor to get the resulting penalty. The divisor is what the State of New Jersey sets as the average cost of a semi private room in a nursing home.  It is a state wide average and is supposed to be adjusted every year.  The rate for 2020 was just announced last month and there is a slight increase from the 2019 rate.  The rate per day is now $357.67 up from $351.84 last year.  On a monthly basis the 2020 rate comes to $10,879 per month. Let’s look at an example of how this would work.  If I apply for Medicaid and during the course of the application process it is determined that I transferred $50,000 for which I did not receive equal fair market value back in product or service, the resulting penalty would be 140 days or about 4 and ½ months.    During that period of time I would need to continue to pay for my care at whatever the private pay rate is.  Medicaid will only begin to

In last week’s post I was telling you about Mary and John’s do it yourself wills.  For less than $100 they purchased a software program that helped them assemble their wills.  When John died only then did Mary learn of the mistakes they made.  I already told you about the IRA which John intended to go to Mary but instead will go to the child from his first marriage.  There is, however, a bigger mistake. The residuary clause stated that the rest of the husband’s property is to be distributed to the husband and if he does not survive then to his children from his second marriage.  If I prepare my will and leave everything to me, that is obviously a mistake.  My guess is that John prepared Mary’s will first and then took her will and changed the names when preparing his own.  He overlooked this very important clause. Mary was quick to point out what he intended and I didn’t disagree with her assessment that he meant to leave everything to her.  The problem, however, is that we can’t substitute our own belief as to what he intended.  So, what options does Mary have? I told her that once we probate the will we would need to apply to the court for an advisory