[See our Disclaimers page about relying on this website’s contents.]
We Americans are very agreeable people. We make agreements with hospitals and doctors to deliver our children and with funeral directors to bury our parents. Some simple agreements only require common knowledge. In other cases, however, seemingly simple agreements may have important, permanent consequences.
It is important to know when to get help. If it occurs to you that you may need to speak with a lawyer, you probably should make that call now. If you think you can handle it yourself, think again, because you may be biting off more than you can chew. Savings of time, frustration, and hidden costs in the long run usually justify fees that lawyers charge for advice and representation.
Settlement agreements save time and money in disputes between feuding neighbors, insurance companies and insurance claimants, debtors and creditors, and many other common adversaries. Settlement agreements can appear to be simple, but a small sentence buried in the document can pack a huge punch. Once you sign and deliver the agreement to the other party, you may not be able to reopen the dispute to fix problems that you misunderstood. A lawyer can help you make sure that you can live with a deal before you commit to it forever.
Nursing Home Admission Agreements
A nursing home may ask you to sign an admission agreement if your disabled family member cannot sign the agreement. Most nursing home admission agreements refer to the signer as the “responsible party” and require the responsible party to either pay the nursing home fees (average monthly Indiana nursing home fee was $5,733 on July 1, 2014) or make sure that someone else pays. Qualifying the resident for Medicaid may satisfy that requirement, but Medicaid qualification is not easy. An experienced elder law attorney can help you navigate the treacherous Medicaid landscape.
Other Issues Regarding Nursing Home Care
Local nursing homes serve our elderly neighbors skillfully and often help impoverished, unmarried residents apply for Medicaid. Unfortunately, Medicaid rules for married residents and residents with real estate or other assets are too complex and they change too often for nursing home employees keep up. A wise nursing home employee always recommends that the family hire an elder law attorney. If someone (other than an elder law attorney) says you do not need to hire a lawyer, everything else that person says is probably unreliable. Always discuss a document with the Family & Social Services Administration appearing in it with an experienced elder law attorney before signing it. Better yet, make an appointment with the elder law attorney as soon you think your loved one may need nursing home care in the future.
Selling A Disabled Person’s Assets
If someone has given you a power of attorney (making you the “attorney-in-fact”) or appointed you trustee or guardian, you may have the power to sell or dispose of that person’s real estate or personal property. Never commit to sell anything under those circumstances without speaking with an experienced elder law attorney because you may have obligations and opportunities that no realtor, banker, or auctioneer could possibly know. Whether to sell and how to sell it are key decisions that an elder law attorney can help you sort out before you make a binding agreement. It may be too late to solve a problem if you sign something before involving your lawyer.
Jeff R. Hawkins and Jennifer J. Hawkins are Trust & Estate Specialty Board Certified Indiana Trust & Estate Lawyers and Jeff is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. Both lawyers are admitted to practice law in Indiana, and Jeff Hawkins is admitted to practice law in Illinois. Jeff is also a registered civil mediator and the 2014-15 President of the Indiana State Bar Association.