Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wreaths Across America Blog Post

In this season of giving, I want to share with you an organization I have a special fondness for.

Wreaths Across America honors U.S. military veterans by placing wreaths on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery.

As you probably know, Arlington houses thousands of fallen soldiers and deceased veterans dating back to the Civil War, as well as memorials like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The work Wreaths Across America does ensures that even in death we continue to pay our respects to the servicemen and women who fought for our country.

But as of this weekend, they will be about 30,000 wreaths short of fulfilling their commitment and they need us to donate whatever we can to make up the difference.

If you are able, please consider helping out at www.WreathsAcrossAmerica.org. For just $15 you can sponsor one wreath. It makes a thoughtful holiday gift for the person who has everything.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack and Stroke

It’s important to catch potential heart attacks and strokes as soon as possible. Below are some indicators that together or separately warn of these medical emergencies.

Heart Attack
  • Chest Discomfort: Pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of your chest that lasts for several minutes and occurs intermittently
  • Upper Body Discomfort: Could occur anywhere from either arm to back, stomach, neck, or jaw
  • Shortness of Breath Cold sweats
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, often focused on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking/dizziness/loss of balance
  • Severe headache

As part of our practice, we advise everybody to have a well-planned estate, including a Power of Attorney (“POA”) for finances and health. It is important to have an updated POA just in case you ever suffer either of these situations or some other illness or injury.

We hope this information is helpful. Feel free to contact The Paton Law Firm with any questions.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Holocaust Reparations Can Be Protected from Medicaid

As part of our Elder Law practice, we know things that others don't. Here's some important information:

Holocaust Reparations and Medicaid

You may already know that your assets and income are a big factor in the Medicaid you receive. Almost any money you have can be taken by Medicaid. However, Holocaust reparations are often exempt from Medicaid, but you must follow certain rules.

Note that in New Jersey, Medicaid will protect your reparations while you are alive, but seek recovery from them after you die. There is a bill pending to change this.

Separate Bank Account

Reparations should not be co-mingled with other assets. Therefore, you will need to keep your reparations in a separate bank account.

This can be any type of account or multiple accounts of various types. The account(s) simply must not contain funds from other sources of income. Any interest made on the account is not exempt from Medicaid.

If you have previously received reparations and did not put them in a separate bank account, that's okay. However, you must rectify this before applying for Medicaid by separating the money out. To separate out the right funds, you'll need to figure out the total amount of you've received in reparations.
Figuring Out The Amount of Reparations You've Received

You must retain proof of the total reparations you've received from their source, which will be a foreign government agency.

To do this, write a letter to that agency requesting your payment history. Include your name, address, date of birth, and case reference number. The case reference number, along with the agency to contact should be listed on any communications you receive along with your reparations.

There are many possible agencies from which your payments could originate so if you are unsure of where to send your letter, speak to the bank from which they are sent.

Your payment history will likely be provided to you in the currency of the originating country, which means you'll need to calculate the American dollar equivalent according to the conversion rate when each payment was made.

You can find historical conversion rates by selecting the country of origin (likely Austria or Germany) and year received and entering the amount here: http://fxtop.com/en/currency-converter-past.php

If you need help, please contact us at The Paton Law Firm.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Important Reminder: POAs for College-Age Kids

My clients all know how much I stress the importance of everyone having a Power of Attorney (POA), even children once they turn 18.

This is especially important now that it is time for incoming freshmen to start their first semester of college.

What many parents do not realize is that once a child turns 18, they are legally considerend an "adult." Even if the parent of an adult child pays for school or medical bills, personnel from these institutions are not allowed to speak to the parent; only the child.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation: An 18 year old is away at college, and all the bills come to the parents’ house. Should the parents have any questions regarding these bills, they cannot speak with representatives from the college without the express permission of their adult child.

If the student had a POA naming one or both parents as the adult child's Agent or Co-Agents, the parents would have the authority needed to talk to the college about almost anything pertaining to their child.

Another hypothetical situation: you receive an invoice for medical treatment from the college and want to know what happened, and if more treatment is necessary or recommended. What if the child is severely injured or ill, and cannot give permission for the doctors to talk to you? You would then have to seek “Guardianship”, which is a long and expensive process.

Having a POA for your adult child can streamline and simplify many similar situations.

Set up an appointment for your child to sign a POA today, before they leave for school.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Noise Complaints

Nearly everyone has had to put up with a neighbor’s noisy party or the dog down the street that never stops barking.

Although situations like these may seem inevitable, there is something you can do about them when they arise.

At a state-wide level, the Noise Control Act and Noise Control Regulations govern commercial and industrial sources of noise in New Jersey. However, the State leaves the regulation of residential noise and nuisances to more local authorities.

Overall noise enforcement is primarily handled at the county level by that county’s Public Health Department, which investigates noise complaints and issue violations when applicable.

On a day-to-day basis, individual municipalities can enforce their local nuisance codes to handle noise complaints.

New Jersey promulgates a Model Noise Control Ordinance, but not all municipalities use this. Some towns have enacted the model ordinance word-for-word or with just a few minor changes, while others have an entirely different set of ordinances.

Typically, noise restrictions are in place from 8 PM to 8 AM on weekdays and 8 PM to 9 AM on weekends. Exemptions from noise ordinances include fire signals, church bells during services, planes, road noise, trains, emergency sirens, and public celebrations.

Rather than memorizing your local noise ordinances, you should simply call the police if you are being bothered by a noise that you think is excessive. The police are trained to handle local noise disturbances. Once an officer is on site, they will make the determination as to whether the noise is a nuisance. Repeated violations by the same offender may result in a fine.

Additional information on who to call when you have a noise complaint can be found here.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Consequences of Becoming an Uber Driver

Due to the rise in popularity of Uber and other private taxi-like companies, many people see becoming a driver as an easy way to make extra money.

Driving for Uber can have significant consequences. Below is a summary of potential liability issues, and a possible alternative for your consideration.

Uber Liability Issues:

Personal car insurance (“PCI”) does not cover commercial use of your personal vehicle. This includes transporting passengers for a fare (i.e., working as an Uber driver). If you are an Uber driver, when the Uber app is on and you have a passenger in your car, you should be covered by Uber’s insurance, but your PCI does not apply. Note that there is a gap in coverage.

This leads to two major problems.

1.      Amount of Coverage. Uber considers itself a “technology company” rather than a taxi service, so as a general policy Uber feels that it should not be liable for anything that happens to its drivers. What does that mean? We cannot be sure as to how much their insurance covers, and if there are circumstances under which Uber insurance will not cover you (the driver).

2.      Timing of Coverage. As soon as you turn on the Uber app, your PCI no longer applies. But Uber’s insurance does not kick in until you pick up your passenger. This gap in insurance coverage creates a major liability issue for you. Currently in New Jersey, the only option to cover this insurance gap is to obtain a commercial liability insurance policy. These are both difficult and expensive to get, since insurance companies are hesitant to insure individuals for such large amounts.

Unless you are able to get a commercial liability policy, you will face a lack or uncertainty of insurance coverage.

An Alternative:

As an alternative, you can start an independent livery service, but there are a number of steps involved at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure you are in compliance with all laws. We would also recommend that you form a new LLC to limit your personal liability. The total filing fees for this can easily be $800, depending on local requirements.

In addition to the above registration requirements, you would also need to have a commercial liability policy before your livery service could start operations. As mentioned above, it can be a challenge to get insurance as an independent commercial driver, and the premiums tend to be high.

This may not be a good alternative if you expect this to be a part time endeavor—the expenses can outweigh the benefits. However, it is a way to limit liability. Again, the decision is yours.

If you decide to go this route, we can help with that process in greater detail.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Lost Your Paper Treasury Bonds?

If you misplace your paper Series EE US Treasury Bonds, the Treasury can replace the bond with a substitute electronic version.

You can request this by completing and submitting Form PDF 1048 to the Treasury. Note that if you do not know the serial numbers of the missing bonds, you will have to provide the following information:

  • Specific month and year of purchase
  • Social Security Number
  • Names, including middle names or initials
  • Mailing address

DO NOT SIGN the form once you have filled in the required information. You must bring the completed form to a bank or other financial institution and obtain a medallion signature guarantee.

Once your signature has been guaranteed, mail the form to:

Treasury Retail Securities Site
PO Box 214
Minneapolis, MN 55480-0214

Once the Treasury electronically replaces your Series EE bonds, you can view direct information about them and make transactions by logging in to your account at www.treasurydirect.gov.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Beware of "Hidden" Medical Expense

Before surgery, many patients mindlessly sign consent forms upon consent forms. As we have seen time and time again, when patients are in need of surgery, many are not in a good position to bargain or "shop around." This vulnerability, however, makes such patients susceptible to surprise medical fees. In an article posted by The New York Times entitled "Paying Till It Hurts: Surprise Bills," author Elisabeth Rosenthal describes an instance where a patient was blind sighted by a bill from an "assistant surgeon" that held an $117,000 fee - whom he never met before. This increasingly common practice, which many are now calling "drive-by doctoring," has taken services that were once included in the daily hospital rate and are now providing such work to be done by contractors and out-of-network physicians who bill separately. These fees can include those that come out of unnecessary tests, adding more physicians or "assistants" than needed, and surgeons from other specialties teaming up for a consult. These surprise charges involve out-of-network providers who bill 20 to 40 times the usual local rates and often collect the full amount, or a substantial portion of it. Therefore, next time you or your loved one find themselves in need of medical care, be careful when consenting to the forms that are thrown in front of you.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Guest Post: Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

A friend and colleague, Tim Watters, posted an article on his website about the very serious issue of identity theft, and what to do to protect yourself. I am reposting with his permission.

Monday, March 23, 2015

“ICE” (In Case of Emergency) Advice

Old School:

My clients know that I recommend keeping a card with you at all times that contains all your important personal and medical information in case of emergency.

EMTs and paramedics are trained to look for emergency cards in the following places:
1 - Automobile - Glove Compartment
2 - Pedestrians - Wallet or Purse
3 - Bicyclists / Motorcycles - Under the Seat
4 - Home - Refrigerator Dairy or Butter Dish
5 - Sports Athletes - Coach's Possession
6 - Work Place - Emergency Response Team Member

Make sure that you keep your emergency card in one or more of these places at all times—it could save your life.

New School—Smart Phone Apps:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Did You Know? 401(k) Loans

Generally, loans taken from 401(k) plans must be repaid within five (5) years in “substantially level payments,” including principal and interest, at least quarterly.

Loan repayments may be suspended for a one (1) year leave of absence, but the loan must still be repaid within the original five (5) year period.

If the loan was used to buy the participant’s main home, the period of repayment can be greater than five (5) years.

Loans are not taxable distributions unless they are not paid back according to repayment terms, or do not satisfy plan regulations.

A participant may receive a “hardship distribution,” which is limited to the amount of their elective deferrals. This distribution must be due to “immediate and heavy financial need” and must be “necessary to satisfy that financial need.” The criteria to meet these requirements are defined in the IRS’s “401(k) Resource Guide.”

If the participant is no longer an employee of the company, the loan must be repaid within 60 days. Otherwise, the money is taxable, and if the participant is under 59 ½, they will have to pay an additional penalty of 10% on the distribution.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Guest Post: Independent Contractors v. Employees

A friend and colleague, Audra Schwartz, Esq., posted this important business law update on her website. I am reposting with her permission.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Emergency Update: IRS Phone Scam

Unfortunately, one of our clients just got fleeced for "everything" he had. We usually send out emails about scams once a year or so, but in light of what happened to our client we are posting this emergency update. Don't be fooled: anyone who calls claiming to be from the IRS is lying. If someone contacts you, call us.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Premarital Wills

NJSA 3B:5-15 provides that if a person had a Will, and later married but did not update the Will, then the surviving spouse a share of the Estate equal to the “intestate share” as though the Testator died intestate. The Legislature assumes that the person forgot to update his or her Will and would want the spouse to get an inheritance.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Asset Preservation Tips

Below are some tips to help you preserve and accumulate your assets. Many of these are common sense, but can be easily overlooked.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Q: Is it legal to record conversations?

Both NY and NJ are “One Party Consent States,” meaning that as long as you have the consent of one person who is party to a communication (or if you yourself are party to the communication), it is legal for you to record (or “intercept”) said communication.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Changes in New York Estate Tax Law

New York recently passed changes to its Estate Tax laws. These changes will affect the Estates of individuals who are domiciled in New York State dying on or after April 1, 2014.

The biggest change is an increase in the Basic Exclusion Amount (BAE)—i.e., how large your Estate can be before you will owe Estate taxes.

For those dying on or after:                         The Basic Exclusion amount is:

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ten Tips When Caring for a Parent or Other Loved One

It is always difficult when your parent, spouse, aunt, uncle, sibling, or other loved one becomes ill or aged. Below are ten helpful tips to help you prepare for, and even avoid, a bad situation.


It is imperative that you review and confirm that your loved one has a valid Will, Living Will, and Power of Attorney. These are especially important in light of recent privacy laws, health insurance policies, and multiple marriages.

     (a) Will: A will ensures that a person’s assets are distributed pursuant to his/her wishes. Titling of assets can affect the Will’s distribution (see #2 below).

     (b) Living Will: A Living Will ensures that a person’s wishes regarding life sustaining treatment are known and effected.

     (c) Power of Attorney: A Power of Attorney (“POA”) appoints an Agent to handle financial affairs, medical decisions, tax planning, Medicaid planning, etc. It must allow for unlimited gifting for Tax and Medicaid Planning. Under the privacy laws, doctors are not allowed to speak to anybody but the patient unless there is a valid POA.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Medicaid Eligibility for Green Card Holders (a.k.a. "Permanent Residents")

Requirements are different for certain special categories of permanent residents (“PRs”) (e.g., asylee, refugee, etc.), but assumes the person does not fall into one of those categories, and that he/she received their Green Card after August 22, 1996.

There are two types of Medicaid: Emergency Medicaid and Full-Scope Medicaid.