When we send our beloved elders to a nursing home, we expect them to receive the care and attention need to live happy, comfortable, and dignified lives. Unfortunately for many seniors and their families, nursing home abuse and neglect is an all too common problem facing our nation’s elder care and assisted living system. While we expect nursing homes to do the right thing, nursing home abuse allegations can often lead to time consuming legal fights to recover damages and hold the facility accountable.

To make matters worse, many nursing homes have the power to insert clauses in their contracts with residents that strip away their right to due process in a court of law and instead require any disputes be settled in an administrative process known as arbitration. Because many families make the decision to place a loved on in an assisted care facility under duress, they often overlook key clauses in nursing home contracts.

What are predispute binding arbitration clauses?

Being named as a beneficiary to the estate of a loved one often comes with its own set of responsibilities and expectations following the passing of the deceased. Often times, individuals create estates and trusts to ensure their hard earned assets like homes, businesses, and sentimental items remain with close family members to ensure these articles are well taken care of and create a lasting legacy for future generations.

However, sometimes the strings attached with inheriting such assets are simply too much for the beneficiary to bare and could actually create a burden instead of benefit. Many of us have probably seen movies or heard news reports of beneficiaries needing to perform some sort of unusual task to claim an inheritance like taking care of a pet or living in a home for a certain period before the property may be sold.

While many of these examples are rare and impractical to say the least, there are many times when accepting an inheritance can create untenable financial liabilities like paying property taxes on homes and businesses. Despite the financial hardship some inheritances create, beneficiaries may still want to ensure their portion of the estate remains under their sphere of influence and provide some good to other families members down the line.

Medicaid is a terrific program designed to help older Americans pay for the cost of their prescription medication, hospital care, and even long term assisted living facility needs. Of course, like any other program, the system is in imperfect and comes with its own unique set of limitations, restrictions, and penalties that seniors and their families need to understand in order to take full advantage of under the law.

Designed as a resource to help low income and disabled seniors, Medicaid requires applicants meet certain financial criteria to qualify for benefits. Sometimes, seniors find themselves in a delicate situation where the state considers them too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid but unable to pay for vital nursing and hospital care on their own. In these circumstances, seniors may need to spend down or transfer assets to qualify for Medicaid assistance.

While this may seem like a practical idea, application for Medicaid in New York requires seniors to disclose asset transfers over the previous five-years to ensure applicants are truly in need of government assistance. The Department of Social Services ”looks back” at financial transactions made by the applicant or his/her spouse and may institute a so-called “penalty period” on non-exempt transferred assets which creates a waiting period on benefits which varies depending on the situation.

The Erie County District Attorney recently announced the creation of a new enhanced multidisciplinary team (eDMT) to help combat the 1,600 cases of senior financial exploitation reported each year in the country. The approach is a brand new model design to create a public-private partnership across multiple disciplines to investigate, prosecute, and educate the public about the very real danger facing many vulnerable elders both in the county and the state as a whole.

According to the Erie County District Attorney’s website, the eDMT “is coordinated by social worker Kathy Kanaley of Center for Elder Law & Justice, and includes the Erie County District Attorney’s office and representatives from Erie County Adult Protective Services and Senior Services.” Furthermore, the task force includes a forensic accountant assisting in the accounting of stolen funds, as well as a geriatric psychiatrist to help with determinations of capacity.

“This collaboration will help our office spot and aggressively prosecute those who prey on these vulnerable members of society,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn. “The sooner we can take action, the easier it will be to get justice for these elderly victims.”

Executing a will or estate through probate court can be a costly, time consuming process full of surprises and complex issues. On top of that, the probate process creates a public record of the proceedings that may reveal information individuals wish to keep private, including debts, real estate holdings, and prenuptial agreement agreements.

Fortunately, New York probate law gives individuals planning their estate options to avoid this burdensome process by creating living trusts, setting up joint ownership, and various transfer agreements. However, even these options come with various challenges that can complicate what is meant to be a less stressful process.

By thinking ahead, weighing options, and speaking to an experienced estate planning attorney, individuals and couples can tailor a plan that best suits their needs and ensures their final wishes are carried out with the greatest benefit to survivors. Here are some common ways to avoid probate court in New York.

As our parents age, many of us begin to take on greater roles concerning basic needs like overseeing finances, medical care, and other tasks. Often times, some form of guardianship is necessary to ensure our loved one’s best interests are executed by financial institutions, hospitals, and even local governments. Even loved ones capable of handling many responsibilities themselves can use assistance from family members.

Fortunately, New York elder law gives family members the right to step in and request guardianship as well as allow competent elders the right to agree to guardianship and allow a family member to make certain decisions on their behalf. Whether you find yourself in either circumstance, an experienced and dedicated New York elder law attorney can help the process goes as smoothly as possible and your beloved elder has his or her needs met.

New York guardianship elder laws

There are many estate planning tools that should be considered when writing a will. While the obvious includable provisions are for assets and property distribution, you should also consider how you want your life insurance policy distributed as well as any retirement benefit accounts. The policies you have subscribed to and pay premiums on will administer a life insurance policy or benefits as you have provided, however, many people forget to amend these policies when they go through events such as a divorce or if they lose a loved one.

Life Insurance Policies

Failing to update life insurance policies can end up benefitting a party you no longer intend to provide for, such as a former spouse who has since remarried, or a family member or friend you have been estranged from. Thus, it is certainly a good practice to amend and update your policy after a major event or to make sure it aligns with your wishes every few years. Making reference to the life insurance policy and the intended beneficiary in your will just goes to further support your claim to show whom you wish to receive the proceeds of policy.

How property and assets are distributed when you pass can be a sensitive topic that many people do not like to address, in fact, more than half of Americans die without a will every year. This failure to plan for the distribution of assets and property can leave many interested parties at odds and may not reflect what your last wishes were for your legacy. Depending on what you are leaving behind, there are some considerations that must be made regarding your assets.

Depending upon the state you reside in, your property may pass subject to probate or it may pass outside due to pre-documented rights of survivorship or trust language. If you live in a community property state, which means that all property acquired by you or your spouse during the marriage, regardless of who bought it is property of the marriage, then your property will pass subject to probate court. However, passing through probate may be avoided if you have left rights of survivorship language in your will or property ownership documentation. Property is then subject to the estate tax, which may not be the main concern of dissolution, depending on the assets involved.

Additionally, a trust can be set up that will either avoid probate or will continue to be includable in your estate. If you seek to avoid probate, you can form what is called an irrevocable trust, which allows you to put your assets and property in a  trust, to be held and owned by the trustee, who works to administer the trust under the governing trust and also make decisions in the best interest of the grantor and any potential beneficiaries. However, if you wish to form a trust but still seek to maintain control of your assets and property by amending or revoking the trust during your lifetime, you can form a revocable trust.

As we continue to age, there are a number of ailments that develop and health issues that we are forced to address and adapt to. While we anticipate problems such as achy joints and the occasional stiff legs, we do often forget about the continued upkeep associated with dental hygiene. Dental checkups are easy to forget about and avoid, especially when you do not feel like anything is wrong, however, as soon as something starts to ache, the check up can turn into a very expensive visit. Many elderly individuals avoid going to the dentist due to the associated fear of costs and lack of coverage.


Medicare does not provide dental care coverage for their insured beneficiaries, which leads many to either go without coverage or to retain an independent plan that could cost them more than they can afford in their budget. Millions of elderly Americans rely on Social Security and Medicaid or Medicare to support them in their old age, however, these programs continue to shrink in size and will not be able to provide for all of those soon to be retirees. Medicare does provide dental care for some chronic medical conditions such as reconstruction following an accidental injury, or extraction due to radiation exposure for neoplastic diseases of the jaw, a very specific list. Even with those exceptions, the reimbursement rate is so low that some doctors will not accept Medicare coverage in their offices because they know how difficult it becomes to get paid.
The National Center for Health Statistics has found that 20% of Americans over 65 years old have cavities that are currently going untreated, with the numbers steadily increasing with old age. With teeth becoming more brittle and procedures performed decades earlier needing maintenance, many elders find themselves in the Emergency Room due to the pain. There are a number of nonprofits however across the nation that offer free or discounted dental cleanings for elderly patients that do not have dental coverage and cannot afford it. Additionally, many universities offer discounted cleanings as well as procedures by having elderly patients be seen by their class of graduating dentists. They will offer up front costs of services as well as payment plans in an effort to avoid having the individual rack up debt.

Meals on Wheels is a government program that started in the 1950s that has assisted elderly citizens by delivering food to them when in need, either by providing the meals in the elderly individual’s home or in a community senior center. They not only provide the meal but also provide safety checks and visit with the senior, critical actions that have been shown to help elders live longer. There are over 5,000 independent organizations across America that help administer the program, and it has for decades, had much success. In order to receive funding local communities as well as the Older Americans Act help to keep the program afloat.


As the new budget is proposed, many programs are in jeopardy of being cut. One program that is may see a threat to funding is Meals on Wheels, due to the program not providing results. However, the nature of the program is not a results oriented initiative. The program services 2.4 million Americans, a number that will undoubtedly grow in the coming decades due to the large number of baby boomers beginning the retirement age. These cuts are the result of discretionary spending decisions related to the Community Development Block Grant that allocates a portion of the block grant money to elderly through Meals on Wheels. There have been numerous studies conducted that have showed the effectiveness of Meals on Wheels decreasing loneliness scores and also decreasing reliance on traditional care, while allowing elderly individuals to remain in their homes longer.


However, there are conflicting opinions about how much influence this will actually have on the institution. From financial statements released last year, only about 3% of the total funding was made from the block grant. On a local level, there is much more monetary influence, with federal funds accounting for 30% of the expenses relating to the home delivered meals. While the program’s costs and returns are currently being debated, it is evident that although it may not be the most lucrative on it’s face, Meals on Wheels can provide a number of benefits. One study even found that if there was a 1% increase in elderly individuals receiving Meals on Wheels, states would saved over $109 million, due to reductions in need for nursing home care.

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