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Last week, I heard the statistic reported that the number of Covid-19 related deaths has now exceeded the number of people who died in the Vietnam War.  The Vietnam War, of course, spanned 11 years while the current pandemic has been ongoing for a few months at this point. The compressed time frame has caused many issues including, for example, putting stress on our health care system.  It has also caused backlogs for funeral homes and in making burial arrangements.  Understandably, our office has received an increase in calls from families who have buried loved ones and are seeking our assistance with estate administration issues.  With the state still in lock down until at least the middle of this month, how have the court systems been affected?  Is it possible to probate a will in these uncertain and unusual times? In New Jersey, probate of wills and estate administration in general are handled by the Office of the Surrogate, which is located in the county courthouse complex.  Each county has a surrogate who is the elected official charged with managing that process, however, there are variations from county to county in terms of some of the procedures. The complete shut down of

What we know about the Coronavirus is that seniors are at a higher risk of serious illness than younger age groups.  So how has Medicare, the primary health insurance program for Americans over 65, responded?                 Medicare will cover the cost of a Coronavirus test under Part B.  Additionally, co-pays and deductibles have been waived as well as the costs associated with the test, such as a doctor’s visit or hospital observation.  If and when a vaccine becomes available that too will be covered.                 If you need treatment for Covid-19, hospitalization is covered under Part A and outpatient services are covered under Part B.  This is no different than treatment for any other injury or illness.  Under normal rules if you are hospitalized for a minimum of 3 days and then discharged to a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation, Medicare will cover as much as 100 days, although for days 21 through 100  there is a co-pay of $176 per day. (Many Medigap policies cover the co-pay.)  Now, however, the 3 day hospital stay has been relaxed.  If the hospital needs to transfer you to make room for new patients, you can get subacute coverage in a nursing facility under

Last week I gave you an overview of the CARES Act and specifically how it affects seniors.  A few days later people began to receive their $1200 stimulus payments directly deposited into their bank accounts, the part of the aid package that gives a one time payment to anyone who had $75,000 or less (a lesser amount for those between $75,000 and $99,000) in adjusted gross income in 2019 (or 2018 if you haven’t yet filed your 2019 income tax return).  Since then we have received several calls asking how this payment affects Medicaid. As we know, Medicaid is a needs based program with strict income and asset limitations.  So we must consider whether this payment is income or an asset?  Assets must remain under $2000 at the end of each month to maintain eligibility for the next month so the concern is whether this payment would make someone ineligible if, when received, their bank account then exceeds $2000. If the payment is income then it must be included in calculating the amount of income that must be given to the nursing or assisted living facility as part of Medicaid’s cost share provision.  In the case of  home based Medicaid it would need to be turned over to the State of New Jersey.  It might also trigger the need to

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last month.  It is a $2 trillion aid package with a lot to it.  Because of the speed with which it was written and passed, there is much confusion about what’s in it and who is eligible.  This week’s post is meant to provide an overview, however, the details and exceptions are far more complicated than can be covered here.  The following, however are some of the provisions that may be relevant to our clients and their families. Stimulus payment – Up to $1200 per individual ($2400 per married couple if you file a joint income tax return) plus $500 for each qualifying child.  You qualify for the full payment if your adjusted gross income as shown on your 2019 tax return (or 2018 return if you haven’t filed 2019 yet) is $75,000 or less ($150,000 if married filing jointly).  You can qualify for a smaller amount if your AGI exceeds $75,000 but you get nothing when you

As the current Covid-19 pandemic continues and experts predict that the peak in the number of new cases is expected to be reached sometime this month we have been taking calls from family members who want to know whether they should consider moving their loved one to another facility or to their own home.   There isn’t a one size fits all answer and it depends on the facts of each particular case, however, there are a number of things to consider. The first point – which is obvious to most of us – is that just because Facility A where my mother resides has had reported cases of the virus and Facility B has not, does not by itself mean Facility B is safer.  The virus continues to spread exponentially.  Facility B may not have any cases when I move her in but that doesn’t mean tomorrow or next week there won’t be an outbreak.  Most facilities in the state now have limited outside visitors to their buildings so that it will also probably be impossible to see Facility B before I make a decision. How about if I move Mom to my home temporarily?  Is that safer?  Maybe yes and maybe no.  It depends on who I am living with.  If a member

As of this writing we are in the midst of a pandemic the likes of which none of us living today has ever experienced.  Historians tell us that the Spanish Flu epidemic from 1918 to 1919 comes the closest.  Government shutdown of nonessential businesses has caused widespread disruptions and affected people and businesses in different and very personal ways. Given the nature of our practice, we are receiving calls from concerned clients and family members.  Some have loved ones in facilities but can’t visit them and are concerned about the spread of the virus there.  Others are prioritizing long term care and estate planning that they put off as they see the randomness of this all.  There have been numerous reports of one person in a household contracting the virus while others remain unaffected. As I always explain to clients and prospects, the basic tools that we use to help clients begin with legal documents – a power of attorney, health care directive, will and often trusts.  The execution (signing) of these documents must conform to certain legal requirements.  Most often they must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and a notary public who must sign an acknowledgement and affix his/her notary stamp or seal.  (The health care directive can be signed before two witnesses or a notary