Linda Ershow-Levenberg, Esq.

About Linda Ershow-Levenberg, Esq.

Linda is the managing partner at Fink Rosner Ershow-Levenberg, LLC. She takes care of legal problems involving people who are aged or who have disabilities, by protecting access to government benefits and helping them make the necessary arrangements for life-long assistance or care. Linda has been certified in Elder Law (C.E.L.A.) by the National Elder Law Foundation since 1999. She strives to provide her clients with responsive representation delivered with personal attention, compassion, and commitment. Find out more about Linda Ershow-Levenberg

Ideas on Overseeing the Care in a Nursing Home When You Can’t Enter the Building

Advocating for our clients in nursing homes during this pandemic has been uniquely difficult, but we continue to utilize whatever tools are at our disposal to help the family members oversee the delivery of care to their loved ones. Many rights are guaranteed, and right now much creativity is needed to protect those rights. Care plan conferences with the treatment team (nursing, dietary, recreation, physical therapy, medical) can be set up in which the family member/ health care representative/ POA (and the attorney, if desired) are on a conference call. Dietary staff can communicate with family about menu selections at the start of the week, using scans or faxes + emails.  It is important to monitor diet because the lack of communal eating and snacking may be causing significant weight loss in residents.

Arrangements can be made for the resident to be brought down to the Lobby so that the concerned health care proxy/involved family member can actually see them through the glass windows or doors. Arrangements can be made for nursing staff to call the family at scheduled times with a report from the shift.  As the weather warms, facilities should be scheduling outdoor visits with family on a regular basis.

Access to the medical record can be arranged, and state law requires the facility to provide access to records to the resident and their authorized requester. Ordinarily, a patient’s advocate/family member who has HIPAA authorization can review the chart during their visit to the nursing facility, in order to stay up to date with the care that’s being delivered, how the resident is functioning, whether there were any incidents and what medications the person is taking. Right now, no third parties are allowed on the premises of the skilled nursing facilities. Since the facility is obligated to keep the families informed about the condition of the resident, creativity and cooperation are needed. Have a discussion with the administrator about a reasonably convenient way that the facility can send this information out – perhaps once a week via fax or scan.

Updates on the COVID-19 situation as it affects seniors and those who care for them can be found here and here.  Many towns have put special programs in place to provide support for frail and housebound community members who are suffering due to the pandemic. The local Aging & Disability Resource Centers can also be useful as an access point for information and services, even though service delivery is not swift during these times.

For help with your unique senior care legal problems, call us at … 732-382-6070

New Jersey provides portal for complaints about Nursing Home Care

To say that the care-delivery system in New Jersey’s nursing homes in 2020 has been fraught with problems and perils is, of course, an understatement. Certain facilities are just now beginning to admit new residents, and many new procedures for infection control and care delivery have to be put in place. The NJ Attorney General announced on April 16th that he is embarking on an investigation into the way that the skilled nursing facilities responded to or handled care delivery in response to COVID-19 infection. Now the State has created a form for people to use to provide complaints or information that could be useful to this investigation.  The form is a fillable PDF that you can submit electronically by clicking “submit” at the end of the form. Here it is: :  https://covid19.nj.gov/forms/ltc

It’s vital that the public file this important information so that the investigation has access to a broad spectrum of first-hand information from members of the public.

 

Vigilance by concerned family members is even more vital than ever when it comes to the long term care and security of their frail elderly loved ones. For help and advice, call us at … 732-382-6070

Save your Selfies for the Medicaid 5-Year LookBack

Readers of this blog know that when he time comes to apply for New Jersey’s Medicaid/MLTSS program for either home care, assisted living care of nursing home care, a daunting array of proofs is required. The burden to prove eligibility is placed on the applicant.  Every single expenditure made by the applicant and their spouse during the previous 5 years is open for scrutiny, to see if it was really an expenditure or if it was actually a gift to somebody else. Every check written, every auto-debit, every wire transaction, every cash withdrawal is questioned. Many kinds of transactions are presumed to be gifts unless the applicant can prove otherwise. People who share their residence with other family members may find this process particularly hard to unravel because of the intertwined sharing of expenses. People who never managed the applicant’s affairs but are now stepping in may find it impossible to answer the hundreds of questions that are posed to them by the agency.

So save your selfies, save your receipts, save your letters and invoices and proofs that you took trips and excursions. Take pictures of your big purchases, and pictures of your caregivers. Keep detailed records of everything, as well as copies of all financial records and cancelled checks. Find your insurance policies, deeds, mortgage payment receipts,  and keep them with these records. Make sure your “trusted someone”  knows where they can find all these proofs when necessary. Banks are charging exorbitant fees to produce copies of statements and checks, so elect to receive statements & cancelled checks or make sure you receive them electronically. It seems you can never have too much proof. Collect and save the medical records. Save all of this for at least a five year period on an ongoing basis.

Forewarned is forearmed. The grueling MLTSS application process can be just a bit easier if you retain your records.

Call us for help with Medicaid applications for long term care ……. 732-382-6070

Life insurance — a useful tool for estate planning and management

An illiquid estate can be very difficult to administer. If the estate assets include real estate or a business to be sold,  there can be a need for substantial cash to maintain these pending sale. If the beneficiaries of the Estate are Class C (siblings) or Class D (all others), New Jersey Transfer Inheritance Tax will need to be paid. Many Wills direct that these taxes be paid from the estate itself, rather than paid by the beneficiary who receives the inheritance. The Executor may need to pay for the funeral bill.  401Ks or IRAs generally have designated beneficiaries, and therefore are not used to pay estate expenses. There may be  substantial debts to clear up as well, or unfiled income taxes. So there’s often a need for cash in the estate so that the Executor can reasonably take care of the Estate’s obligations.  Life insurance that is payable “to my Estate” can be used to create the liquidity that’s needed.

If the estate plan needs to balance the amounts being left to different people, and certain people are receiving, let’s say, the tax-deferred accounts, the beneficiary designations on the life insurance can take care of the others.

Perhaps there is a Trust within the Will to protect the inheritance for certain heirs, or a supplemental needs trust for a disabled heir, or an unfunded standby trust for another person’s benefit. Life insurance can be made payable  to the Trustee of the Trust, to ensure that there will be an inflow of dollars to fund the trust. This is a particularly useful technique when the Trust includes a house that the beneficiary will live in.

Life insurance is one of many tools in the toolbox for an effective estate plan. Call us for advice to design the plan that meets your needs ….. 732-382-6070

 

Estate planning pointers for unmarried couples

Are you in a long-term relationship, or even engaged to be married? Is that wedding postponed indefinitely due to the current pandemic? Do you have children who would need a guardian if you pass away? Do you have children from a previous relationship? Do you want to make sure that your partner is the one who will inherit your estate, or will be the one who’s allowed to handle your financial affairs and your medical decisions if you become critically ill?

The “laws of intestacy” specify that the estate of an unmarried person who has no Will would pass in equal shares to the children equally and if a child was deceased, then his/her share would pass to his/her descendants if any. If the deceased has no children, the estate passes to his/her surviving parent or parents, and if none, then to the descendants of the parents (i.e., the deceased’s siblings or nieces and nephews). If a single individual dies and has no surviving parents, children, siblings or nieces/nephews, the estate will pass to further remote relatives such as cousins. Ultimately, the estate can escheat to the State of New Jersey when there are no kin who can be located.

The only way to be sure that your estate will pass to your partner is to structure things properly in writing. There will be NJ inheritance tax due if it passes to your partner who isn’t your spouse, so that needs to be factored into the planning. The passage of the estate can be managed through a Last Will and Testament or a Living Trust, (or both) as well as certain beneficiary designations, depending on your specific situation.  Each case needs individual attention.

With a Will or Trust  you can make specific arrangements to protect the well-being of your own children, whether that’s by designating a Guardian (for minors) or structuring the way their inheritance would be managed.

As for decisions to be made during your lifetime if you become incapacitated, there is a preference in the statutes for next of kin as decision-makers. If you want your partner to be the primary Agent on your behalf, you would need to sign legal documents to that effect — power of attorney, health care power of attorney. You can also sign an Appointment of Funeral Agent. All of this documentation goes a long way to prevent disputes over who has authority, who inherits, and who should make decisions for you.

You may be wondering if you can just wait until after the wedding. Of course you can. Should you? That’s a different issue. Careful planning can prevent a crisis.

Call us to prepare or update your estate plan …….. 732-382-6070