The Great American Senior Show

Heidi Friedman Elder Attorney Says Elder Law Protects Many Floridians

June 15, 2022 Sam Yates Season 2 Episode 57
The Great American Senior Show
Heidi Friedman Elder Attorney Says Elder Law Protects Many Floridians
Show Notes Transcript

Elder Law Attorney Heidi Friedman returns to the Great American Senior Show with answers to questions posed by senior citizens throughout Florida.

Did you know that those with Special Needs can benefit from protections offered by an Elder Law attorney.

Heidi Friedman of the law firm Friedman Elder Law Department, says seniors and their caregivers need to be kept up to date on how changing laws impact our seniors. 

The Great American Senior Show takes an in depth look at some of the problems and solutions encountered by seniors and solved by the Friedman Law Department.

Sam Yates:

Hello, everyone and welcome to another edition of The Great American Senior Show. And on a previous episode we had Heidi Friedman. She specializes in elder law, the Friedmen Elder Law Firm, you're located in South Florida covering all of South Florida. Heidi, welcome back to the program.

Heidi Friedman:

Thank you. Thank you, Sam, for having me back.

Sam Yates:

You know, we're at that time of year where seniors the elderly in particularly those who care for them at home, and those who provide legal counsel, you are all in the spotlight, we are taking a look at some of the different aspects of Elder Law and our aging population. We talked about in our previous episode a bit about your background, tell us again,

Heidi Friedman:

again, I am a board certified elder law attorney, I'm one of only, I think right now 117, board certified elder law attorneys in the entire state of Florida. I am also the mother of two incredible boys, one who is 7122, my 22 year old has special needs. So that's kind of how I ended up in this world. Because I've been an attorney since 1994. It's hard to believe it's been that many years. And I am my my native Florida, I am the sister of two Army veterans. So my dad and my brother still live in Jacksonville, Florida. But I've been down in South Florida for most of my adult life. And in

Sam Yates:

our previous episode, you also talked about advanced directives and legacy planning, why are those two important for our aging population,

Heidi Friedman:

it is so important to have both of those. And the reason why is because first of all, what people don't understand is planning is so important planning will ultimately save money, it will protect your assets, it will alleviate a lot of heartache in your family. If your family knows what you want, and understand where your money's supposed to go or understand what your wishes are, then it really does make things a lot easier for family members. So when you're talking about planning, you're not only planning for yourself, but you're also really planning for your family. And also, you know, unfortunately, as we age, you know, it's a really high likelihood that we're going to need some kind of care, we might suffer some, some dementia, and we're no longer making great decisions for ourselves. So when you do the advanced planning, and you do the legacy planning, you're you're making those decisions at a time when you can make decisions. And you're not leaving it up to somebody else to think, Hey, I think this is what mom and dad might have wanted. Or I think this is how mom wanted to handle money or wanted to live or whatnot, you actually have it written down. You've discussed it with your family, it's in writing. And, you know, it just makes aging a lot easier to process. And you get to have what you want, which is I think it's really important.

Sam Yates:

I was at a meeting this morning, one of the gentlemen seated to my right said tomorrow is going to be a great day because I can start collecting my Social Security. And I'm looking forward to Medicare. And those are, to be quite honest, some benefits of becoming an older American for long term care. We talked earlier on our previous program, very, very expensive. Here in South Florida in particular, what is that expense like and what other resource is available for those who may need assistance.

Heidi Friedman:

So it is it's very expensive to age in this country. Plus, especially down in South Florida and some other states like New York and stuff, it's extremely expensive. Down here in South Florida, I can tell you that if you're just looking to get home health care, it could cost anywhere from 20 to $25 an hour just to get a home health care aide in your home right now. And it's and that cost has increased with COVID. Because you know what, it's also very difficult to find those aids right now because people don't want to go into the houses or people are afraid to have people in their houses because of COVID. I'm going into assisted living facilities. The assisted living facilities down here are also broken into two different categories. You have your typical assisted living facility that's there to help with your activities of daily living bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring and or eating. And then we have more of your dementia focused assisted living facilities that are more what we call secured facilities because they are a locked in facility and the reason why I mean it sounds terrible, but a lot of people as they suffer through the dementia tend to want to wander. Those places can cost anywhere from 4000 to 6500, sometimes even $7,500 a month depending on the bells and whistles. And then the final place where I believe me stay on Nobody wants to go. And nobody's said, you know, put me here is your is your nursing homes or your skilled nursing facilities or long term care facilities, whatever they want to call them, those places down here, on average can cost anywhere from $9,500 to $12,000 a month. As a matter of fact, I had a client yesterday, who contacted me, both parents are going into a skilled nursing facility $24,000 a month to pay for care, and a skilled nursing facility right for the parents to be in a room. So the question always comes down to how in the world you pay for that care. And as I tell all my clients, there are three buckets of money to pay for care that bucket one is their private money, it's what they've saved, and it's their income. Now, at this point in the game, usually their income is so security, maybe pensions, maybe they're getting requirement of distributions from any of their IRAs, but it's certainly nowhere near the $24,000 that you may need in order to go into a skilled nursing. So now you're talking about income plus whatever savings they have. And at this point, again, they're not going back to work. They're not earning all this much money. So that buckets kind of sat stagnant, right? I mean, you have it, this is what you have, when you went out of it, you run out of it. The second bucket they can use to pay for care is long term care insurance. Now, right now, I know that there are some new rules coming out about getting long term care insurance for seniors, for elderly people, although at some point, it becomes an exorbitant cost, it costs more than what it's worth. But if you're young enough to get it, then it's really an A very important benefit to get. And then the third bucket is the bucket that we have with and that's your your government benefit bucket. And the goal for us is to help you tap into those government benefits. while protecting your first bucket of money. Obviously, the government would like you to do the opposite, spend all your money in your first bucket and then come to us. But if you do that, then you have no extra money to pay for care that the government doesn't pay for. And when we're talking about the government benefit bucket, there are two government benefits in there that can help pay for long term care and only two. One is Medicaid. Medicaid has benefits that help seniors pay for long term care. It is a federally funded program, but state run so each state has its own rules and regulations. So if you're talking about Medicaid, you really should contact an elder law attorney in your state to help you figure out how you can qualify how you can protect your assets, so you don't need to meet their low financial requirements so you can protect some of your assets and still qualify for those benefits. Here in the state of Florida, we have the home and community based waiver program, as well as ICP, or institutionalized care program. And depending on where you live depends on what program and what benefits you receive. If you're at home or in an assisted living facility, then you're looking at the home and community based waiver program. If you're in a skilled nursing facility, you're looking at ICP or institutionalized care program, I will tell you the financial requirements for that is if you are a single individual person trying to get Medicaid to help pay for that you could have no more than $2,000 worth of assets in your name that excludes your house car, prepaid burials. There are a few other exceptions, but most everything else cost of counts. And there is an income cap in the state of Florida 2523. So if you don't meet those requirements, that's the best time to contact an elder law attorney to help you protect your assets and get you qualified. Again, I hear it all the time I never I won't meet the Medicaid eligibility will hopefully you don't and we can help you meet that and protect your assets. The other benefit that I just want to touch on quickly is if you are a wartime veteran or surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, there's a benefit called aid and attendance. That benefit will help you also pay for long term care. It's actually a tax free pension that's paid directly to the veteran and or the surviving spouse. I will say the surviving spouse cannot be divorced and they cannot be remarried. They also have financial requirements. But the main thing is that the veteran has to have served at least one day during more time, 90 consecutive days discharged anyway, other than dishonorably. The person or the claimant who needs it needs to lead to show that they need the benefit. And that's a doctor driven program. And then the financial requirements for VA is that they can have no more than $137,400 in their name, again, exclude your house car prepaid burials that are revocable, and your gross monthly income has to be outweighed by unreimbursed medical expenses. Again, if you don't meet those requirements, that's the best time to contact an elder law attorney to help you meet those requirements and protect your assets

Sam Yates:

to make that contact with your office, how may they go about doing that?

Heidi Friedman:

So you can either reach us on our website at WWW dot elder law department and it's D pt.com. Or you can reach us email team at elderlaw d p t.com. Or you could always call our office at 954 8661055 And we actually can assist anybody in the state of Florida.

Sam Yates:

And I think that's raises an important question to our program is heard throughout the state of Florida. And literally you can help answer questions and direct people to whatever resources anywhere in Florida, not just south Florida.

Heidi Friedman:

Absolutely, absolutely. I'm an elder law attorney in Florida, so we can help you anywhere in the state of Florida.

Sam Yates:

Now, otherwise, there are people who live outside the United States, their parents may be here. Nothing says they can't call you up and say, I need to get some advice for my parents and how to that being outside the country doesn't exclude asking questions.

Heidi Friedman:

No, absolutely not. As a matter of fact, we've had several clients who have children that live out of the country. I had one in particular, one of the sons lived in London, and he was handling all of his dad's finances from London. And we were we helped him helped his dad get qualified for Medicaid. And it was good because what Medicaid did is they paid for a care manager. So he felt more confident because he was not here in the country. And his dad was aging and getting, you know, needing more and more help. And through Medicaid, they were able to hire a care manager to come in and visit his dad to make sure that his dad was taken care of. So all of that. And you know, as long as as long as the senior that lives in Florida, we can absolutely help we get calls from people all over the country. And with zoom with, you know, miss, I have to tell you, the good thing about the pandemic is that it opened up a whole new world for us with Zoom, we can now have these zoom meetings and meet the children who live anywhere and be able to help their parents.

Sam Yates:

Technology is awesome when it works and it seems works. But you know, for those who may have questions, we want them to reach out, and we don't want them to do Google. That's a tendency a lot of people do, either for medical care, Dr. Google, how do I do this? But in the case of elder law, and what is happening with their parents, or themselves, don't turn to Google.

Heidi Friedman:

Yeah, you know, unfortunately, there's a lot of information out there. There's a lot of misinformation. I've even had people who have called me that have gotten misinformation from social workers, paralegals, their best friend, their whatever, understand the system is not easy. And and like I said, Medicaid is federally funded, but state run. So you may hear something from somebody who lives in New York, but your parents lives in Florida. It's a totally different system. And there, there was a great coffee cup that I love it it says your Google search does not replace my law degree basically. So yeah, I understand there's a lot of information and you know, even with the rocket law, and and I don't mean to pick on that particular one. But you know, there's a lot of these, these online document generators. And again, it's really important, because, unfortunately, in this this area of the law, If a mistake is made, it can end up costing 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of dollars, you get a durable power of attorney that's not done by the appropriate attorney. And I don't mean like a real estate attorney or, you know, your best friend's brother's a Pio attorneys to do the durable power of attorney. Because if your parent becomes incapacitated and don't have the proper durable power of attorney, you're looking at guardianship. Now you've taken that whole process that could have cost you under $1,000. And it's not going to cost anywhere from 10 to $12,000. And you don't know the outcome. Because now you got to go to court, you got to get a guardian you got to do. So it's really important that when you're doing these type of things that you really contact the appropriate attorney. And when you're talking about somebody who's 65 and older, their probate attorney is an elder law attorney, not an estate lawyer, not a real estate lawyer, not anything else, but an elder law attorney.

Sam Yates:

Because thing has changed, you're on top of it. The bat that is important, especially in the in the the the months coming up. I know that there are a lot of potential funds in the pipeline that may go to help seniors throughout, for example, the state of Florida Department of Elder Affairs has 11 regions, and they all receive funding, but they do different things for them in different regions. So by all means, turn to Heidi when you have questions,

Heidi Friedman:

right? Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the state of Florida is supposed to be getting a very big influx of money. So it is really important. Like for example, one of the problems I was talking about the home and community based waiver program. Right now, unfortunately, there's a waitlist just to be able to apply for that program, not to get the program to apply. And you have to go through an agency and have an assessment done. And if you don't answer the questions the way that that you need to enter the questions, and I'm not talking about lying, I'm talking about how to really handle certain questions, you could put your, with your parents on that waitlist for over a year, versus maybe getting them on that waitlist and off that waitlist within three to four months. So it is really important that you seek the advice of an expert when you're dealing with your parents, just like you would do with anything else. Right.

Sam Yates:

And I'm glad you said that because the waiver program is one that tugs at my heart, because I've taken a look at the list around the state. And ironically, one portion of the state the situation could be totally different than another, there's there is no conformity between the various parts of the state and how that unfortunately, how that is handled. So

Heidi Friedman:

also not and I am part of several different groups that that bring in elder law attorneys from all over the state. And even I get surprised at what some of them have to deal with versus what I have to deal with down here in South Florida. You know, their waitlist are longer people are not coming off the waitlist, there's some counties where people are on the waitlist, and maybe they release to people in the entire county. So it's really important that you you know what you're doing when you're navigating the system, I wouldn't

Sam Yates:

be doing my job. If I didn't ask about elder abuse. We see it and read about it in the newspapers hear it on the television broadcast. How serious a problem is elder abuse in Florida, South Florida in particular. Wow.

Heidi Friedman:

Listen, elder abuse I think is serious all over the country from the outside scammers to even the the elder abuse that's done by your own family members, people that you would not expect. There are many times I get a phone call from one child telling me that the other child has taken advantage of their parent or, you know, there's a an aunt, I mean a nephew or a niece who's come in and taking the parent to a paralegal or something if they've changed the durable power of attorney or they've gotten their names on the account. Or even there's been times literally where, you know, people have ingratiating themselves to the senior. And the next thing you know that seniors taking them to the bank and coming out, you know, taking out money and giving it to those to that person or they believe I mean, I had a case was pretty sad. It was a gentleman, he was in his 90s. Sweet guy, he had his wife in a nursing home, there was a caregiver, I guess, if you want to say in the home, she was not from the country. And the next thing we knew, as soon as the wife was in the nursing home after a couple years, all of a sudden this gentleman was paying for her caregivers car and believe the caregiver was his girlfriend, and all of a sudden, her children were being taken care of by his money. All of a sudden, he was contacting me wanting to change the will to add her into the will and you know, so it's it's prevalent. And we find it it's especially I think down here because it's just so easy to contact or to get in touch with the seniors. And they're so vulnerable, they're so willing to believe that somebody is there for them, even if they're that person's 40 years younger than them. Unfortunately, I you know, thank God, my father still has all his faculties and he hasn't fallen victim of that. But there's even been times when I've heard you know, my mother died a couple years ago, and my father's contacted me and said, Oh, my God, you know, I got this phone call, because they're online. And and they're, you know, they're looking for companionship, and they're, they're desperate. So it's just as, as a as a child, as a family member who loves that singer just really need to make sure that you keep in touch with your parents, that you're contacting them that know what's going on. I never recommend doing a joint bank account with your parents because when you become a joint owner, what you're doing is you're putting your parents money at risk for your liabilities. But definitely make sure that you're named as a power of attorney on their accounts, that you know what's going on maybe those accounts should go into trust where you become the trustee and you're able to control them. So it's it's a really important area that it's so sad when I hear that that things have happened. And and again, it's usually by somebody who's close to that senior. It's not not always the you know, you think that the abuse comes from somebody outside of but it's not. It's usually the person that's close to the senior. So it is really it is prevalent and it's something that you should always do Keep on top of and look out for, if you do suspect any kind of abuse, there's a one 800 Elder abuse is the hotline to contact report the abuse, they will do, they will do an investigation, they will determine whether or not there has been some abuse there. And if so, they will take steps.

Sam Yates:

Now I know another topic that is a passionate topic for you and myself as well, is the fact that we often see people who have special needs that need a lot of help.

Heidi Friedman:

Yes, well, of course, that's near and dear to my heart, my son, my oldest son has special needs. One of the things, the only thing I can really stress is that if you are a parent, with a child with special needs, I don't care how old you are as the parent, you need to make sure that you have set up a plan of what to happen to that child in the in your assets. Unfortunately, I've come across many senior parents who have seen your children with disabilities, and they have not set them up they have not prepared correctly, because, you know, it just wasn't done. And it's really important. Also, it's, it's a lot of a lot of parents with children with special needs. And adults with special needs, they automatically assume that their typical child should take care of their their child with disabilities. And you know what, this really just not a fair thing to put on your typical child, typical child, I'm not putting my older son's, you know, life in his hands, I'm not making him completely responsible, of course, I want him to be involved with his brother and make sure that his brother is taken care of, but I'm certainly not gonna make him the trustee of his special needs trust or make him be responsible completely for his brother. So it's really important that you contact and again, it's really weird, because it is an elder law attorney, that will also help out with senior with special needs. Because it's all basically the same realm. So you really should contact an elder law attorney to make sure that you've set up a proper estate plan and a proper plan for your child because unfortunately, whether you'd like to believe it or not, there's going to come a time when you're not here. And there they are alone. And you need to make sure that they're set up.

Sam Yates:

Heidi and I also share a passion for being a member, individual members of a group that is doing some special things in South Florida, the elder Services Resource Network EAS are in as we like to call it in shorthand and, and Heidi, kudos to you, you are the president of this organization. And it's been doing wonderful things tell us about the organization.

Heidi Friedman:

So ESRM is a great networking group for, for professionals in the senior community. The greatest thing about it is that we all work together, it's it you know, if one of us has an issue with one of our clients, we can always contact another professional professional within the group that will help. We can refer them over. We know the professionals in the group are upstanding and they know what they're doing. In addition, ESRM we also like to do give back to the community. So we do have fundraisers will we will adopt a community maybe over Christmas, which we did last last year, we've done it every year will Dr community provide gifts to them. We like to also offer scholarships and things like that from the group. So or grants, there's grants out there. So if you have something that you're you think that you need additional funding for there's a grant process that we can offer and provide you some funding for it. So it's it's really an amazing group. And I have an incredible board, including my membership, Vice President, which happens to be you.

Sam Yates:

I have to say that's a testimony to Heidi, I began to be active in this organization. And before you knew what was happening, I'm on the board. I'm the Vice President of membership. And I take it seriously now we're taking a look at where our membership is coming from where it's going. And and I want to do a very special plea to those of you who are active in the senior community. If you're a professional and you're active in the senior community. We would like to have your expertise. And it's a it's a point blank ask, call us contact us. We need to know who you are and what services you can bring to the table because we're all going to get older and as we get older, we need as many resources as possible. So how do you how many they contact the ESR? Ven

Heidi Friedman:

well, they can go right on to the website. It's esrm.org or so. am you can tell them also how they can get in touch with you have

Sam Yates:

you noticed those how we play off of one another there, you can reach us the reach me through the Great American senior show. You can also email me, I don't have any worries about giving my email out. It's Sam at eate pro Yat SPR o.com. And I'm seriously, we would like to have you as a new member, there are benefits to being a member.

Heidi Friedman:

Definitely. And we meet once a month, we've been doing, we've been doing everything on Zoom, but we're hoping to go back in person soon, hopefully, maybe in April. We also offer small group networking. So you you have an opportunity to meet, you know, in smaller groups. So you can really meet the people that are involved and other other resources for yourself. We have some activities. We have a membership drive coming up in I think we're doing it in April, or May. All of that is on the website. So if you have any, any questions or anything, and the other great thing that we do during our meetings is we always bring in an outside expert to help us learn more about either ourselves or things that are going on in the community. So we have great speakers, they come in, they make themselves available to us, they offer us some really, really great information. So it's a great I've been a member of ESRN for a long time and the president for the last year and it's been it's been a very helpful and in great community for me.

Sam Yates:

Heidi, can you come back for a future program?

Heidi Friedman:

Anytime Sam, I really enjoyed talking with you and and providing any kind of information I possibly can to help the senior community or the special needs world.

Sam Yates:

Absolutely looking forward to having you come back in the future. So for those of you who are wondering, the great American senior show, is streaming 24/7. Now wherever you get your podcast, all you have to do is look up the great American senior show, or if you have Alexa at home, hey, Alexa, play the latest episode of The Great American seniors show and everybody that's listening on their stereo speakers right now. Alexa is currently listening. She heard that she's looking for it. She's found us and there you go. But we do encourage you to download the program. We encourage you to share it with as many people as possible because if we can help the life of one person, we've accomplished a lot here on the great American senior show it again, thank you.

Heidi Friedman:

Thank you, Sam, thank you for having me and letting me get this information is such important information out to

Sam Yates:

you and we're going to have Heidi back for a future program. In the meantime, I'm Sam Yates, your gray haired host of The Great American senior show. And that's how our program in