Has a nursing home asked you to sign?

Your mother, father, aunt, etc., is moving to a nursing home.  You accompany your dad, for example, so he won’t be going through this alone, and he might need help completing paperwork.  The nursing home asks, or requires, that you sign as hi—STOP!  Don’t sign!

The nursing home asks you to sign as your dad’s “personal representative.”  Or to sign as guarantor.  Or to sign anything.  What you are likely doing is signing an agreement to be held financially responsible if your dad, through his insurance or Medicaid, does not or cannot pay his bill.  This might happen if his Medicaid application is not approved, or if insurance denies his claims, or any number of reasons.

But, the nursing home simply wants you to sign as the “responsible relative,” the person who will take steps to see that Medicaid or insurance pays your mother’s nursing home bills, right?  Or as the point person who will track down information, call the insurance company, provide information, right?  You would certainly agree to help your mother this way.  The problem is that you have unwittingly agreed to also be financially responsible to the nursing home for your mother’s bills.  Just ask Judy Andrien.

This practice by nursing homes occurs regularly, at least according to what I see and hear.  It happened to my family member, where the nursing home left his sibling lying out in the hallway on a gurney until the family member signed as “personal representative,” assuring this family member that “oh, it’s just a formality–we never pursue payment.”  They did pursue payment.

It is illegal under the federal “Nursing Home Reform Law” (summarized here) to require or request someone to sign as a guarantor as a condition of someone (usually a family member) being admitted, or of being permitted to continue to stay.  Nursing homes often get “crafty,” however, by asking family to voluntarily sign, whether as personal representatives, the responsible party, guarantor, etc.  “It’s just a formality….”

As an attorney, I have handled matters where stunned family members come to me with 5-figure bills from the nursing home, where the nursing home says that they signed as a financially-responsible party and now the bill is due.  At this point, one of the the only arguments is that my client did not sign voluntarily which can be a difficult argument to make, not to mention costly in attorney fees.

My advice if you accompany someone other than your spouse to a nursing home to be admitted?  Do not sign anything.  Period.

If you have any questions, contact me at julie@juliemillslaw.com.

Steps to take when a Veteran dies

If your deceased loved one was a Veteran of United States military service, there are steps you should take to know what documents to gather, and to get an idea of what benefits are available.  These are beyond the typical steps taken when a loved one dies, such as choosing a funeral home, obtaining the death certificate, gathering insurance policies. Funeral homes are experienced in knowing what to do, and what is available, for veterans’ funerals, but gathering what documents you need and knowing what is available is very helpful during a period when you and loved ones are grieving.

The following are a few steps to get you started.  Gather:

  1. A copy of the Veteran’s DD-214 (or discharge papers);
  2. Claim number for the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).  Start with (800) 827-1000 if you are unsure where to find it.
  3. Social security numbers of the deceased veteran, spouse, and children.
  4. Contact information for your local National Cemetery or local VFW, DAV, VVA or American Legion group, if burial will be at a military cemetery.  You can request a “Military Funeral and Honor Guard” where two uniformed representatives of the deceased’s military branch will attend the funeral, serve as pall bearers, play Taps.
  5. Contact information for your local VA Hospital to arrange pick up of any VA-issued medical equipment such as wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, hospital beds, if you would like to return them.

The VA also provides burial flags, headstones, medallion markers.  This post just touches on the benefits available to Veterans and their survivors.  To learn more, visit the VA’s website, and download the document “Planning Your Legacy: VA Survivors and Burial Benefits Kit.”

If you have any questions about Veterans’ or survivor benefits, feel free to email me at julie@juliemillslaw.com.

If an LLC protects me, why get business insurance?

Business clients often ask me why, if they form their business as a limited liability company (LLC), would they need business insurance?  Doesn’t the LLC structure protect me from liability?

You can launch a business tomorrow simply by starting to do whatever your business does, without filing with the state, choosing a business entity.  If you want to sell widgets, you would get widgets and sell them.  You would be a sole proprietor, you would have a sole proprietorship structure to your business.  You would be your own boss, totally responsible for business decisions.  That sounds perfect to many people.  However, you would also be totally responsible for liabilities, and your personal assets would be vulnerable if your business was sued for whatever reason.  Your business’s money and property and your personal money and property are all at risk as a sole proprietor.  You might not only lose your business’s widgets in a lawsuit, you might lose your house.

To create a divide between “business” and “personal,” sole proprietors and people starting a business choose to incorporate.  The limited liability company (LLC) is a common choice of business entity in Ohio.  If your LLC is sued, only the business’s assets are at risk and your personal assets should be safe.  (“Piercing the corporate veil” in a lawsuit against an LLC could put personal assets at risk, but that is a topic for a different blog post.)  So, why would you need business insurance since your personal assets are protected?

The question becomes what happens if your business faces a large lawsuit.  For example, one of the widgets you sold was defective and caused a horrible personal injury to the customer who bought it.  Even if your company is found not liable, it could face financial ruin defending itself.  Business liability insurance protects the assets of your business.  Errors and omissions (E&O) insurance would cover the cost of defending your business in a lawsuit, while general liability insurance would cover your business in situations arising from negligence.

If you are a sole proprietor, or plan to start a business, incorporate your business to protect your personal assets.  Then, purchase business insurance to protect your business’s assets.

If you want to start a business in Ohio, or have any questions about LLCs, email me at julie@juliemillslaw.com.