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John Griffin Watts
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John Watts’s Answers

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  • Can my Mothers vehicle be reclaimed in order to pay Medicaid benefits paid to nursing home if the vehicle is put in my name.

    My Mother has been covered on Medicaid for many years but is now about to enter a nursing home facility. She has one vehicle in her name but she signed it over to me several months ago, so that in the event of her death I could send the title in a...

    John’s Answer

    As pointed out in the other answers -- you need to get with a Medicaid Planning (Elder Law) lawyer asap. Simple things like gifts can have terrible consequences for families and your state may (or may not) allow the return of gifts to avoid a penalty period.

    I'm a bit unclear -- you say she is on Medicaid. Do you mean Medicare? If she has already qualified under Medicaid, then this might not be as big of an issue but you still need to get with a lawyer to find out. Often we can make mistakes by not checking with an expert in our state.

    Best wishes as you are having to deal with this tough situation.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Is it possible to do a chapter 7 when your laywer only corresponds with me through the mail?

    i have only seen my lawyer once. she sends me letters telling me what she needs and i take a package with all the documents that she requests to the lady at the front desk of her office. she never returns my calls. the last corresponence i reciev...

    John’s Answer

    The other answers nail the issue -- you should be able to meet with your lawyer. Sometimes as lawyers we may not make our clients come see us if they live far away or have medical or other issues that prevent them from coming to see us.

    But as a general rule I want to meet my clients. I want to see them face to face.

    My suggestion is write your lawyer -- explain your concerns -- and ask her to meet with you to solve the problem.

    A good lawyer will do this and often times there is simply a misunderstanding that gets resolved easily. If it doesn't, then you need to decide if you want to move forward with your lawyer -- your advisor and counselor -- being someone you can't even meet with....

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Can anyone help me with my student loan rehabilitation conflict?

    I am in a rehabilitation program for a student loan, that was suppose to be up in nine months. I made 16 monthly payments and never got out of the program. To make things worse my automatic rehabilitation agreement ran out and they stopped taking ...

    John’s Answer

    I assume you have a federal student loan and you did the rehabilitation. It can be a frustrating experience and sorry you are dealing with this.

    First step is to know whether you were dealing with the guarantor or with a collection agency. If collection agency, then you should get with a consumer lawyer who deals with FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) as there are often lies told by collection agencies related to rehabilitation.

    Another suggestion is start documenting your experiences in writing. Write to whoever you were dealing with and any company that is being blamed (Sallie Mae, AES, etc) and ask them why this has happened. Document that you made 16 payments when only 9 were needed, that the auto draft stopped without notice, etc.

    Ask them to explain, in writing, why this happened and why you need to start over. Again, if a collection agency, they have a tendency to lie about the process as the commissions can be substantial for them.

    Bottom line is get very organized (sounds like you are) and sit down with a consumer lawyer in your state to see your options.

    Best wishes -- I know this can be frustrating....

    John Watts

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  • My aunt was in a nursing home, hospital, and released to my home because she had no insurance. Awaiting Medicaid approval.

    She has a son who did not sign her admission papers to the Nursing Home she was initially discharged to from her first hospital visit. The nursing home accepted co-payment of $750 and after about 10 days stated she had a GI bleed and sent her to ...

    John’s Answer

    Unfortunately some nursing homes will make up bogus reasons to not accept Medicaid patients. I've never heard of this reason before.

    As someone else suggested, look into a different nursing home.

    The son may be concerned he will be personally liable -- he should not be so it may be best to sit down with an elder law attorney in Birmingham and with the son to have a frank discussion of what needs to happen.

    Sounds like you are doing the right thing -- the honorable thing -- and I hope you will be successful getting your aunt the care she needs.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • I have supposed lawyer firm/collection agency calling saying I owe a payday loan. They have all my information.

    The account they have on file is a prepaid card account and the only deposits you can make is through direct deposit from an employer or to go to a local store and buy a reload card so I have never had money from a payday loan loaded to this acco...

    John’s Answer

    This is a growing problem. About half of the calls to my firm relate to scam debt collectors.

    Here's the very simple solution: Tell them you know there are a lot of scams out there and you want something mailed to you.

    Not emailed -- they will say they only email.

    Not faxed -- they will say they will only fax you.

    You tell them you want a good old fashioned letter sent through the United States Postal System with a stamp on it.

    This freaks them out (the reasons aren't important).

    A real lawfirm . . . a real collection agency . . . will be happy to send you a letter in the mail as they want to get paid.

    The scam places won't -- they are terrified of mailing through the US mail.

    They will start saying "This will violate our right to privacy" or "It is illegal to mail you" or "We can't mail you again" etc.

    I've given this advice to hundreds of people and no one has ever had the collector continue to collect except the day of the call requesting the letter, the agency may call you multiple times. But if it is a scam -- and this sounds like one -- they will move on to easier "targets" who will immediately turn over their bank account information.

    I'm putting a link below to an article/video about foreign collectors -- same thing with American collectors. In the last year good ole Americans have gotten deep into this particular scam also....

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Can money be garnished from my account that my 30 year old son owes? He has a job ,married and has his own account?

    My son is on my account for emergency purposes only..The money is mine and they took it out without my knowledge for a garnishment he owes. He is married and has not lived in my home for about 7 years has a job and his own account!!

    John’s Answer

    As indicated in the other answers, the general rule is when a family member (or anyone else) is on a bank account with you, then that other person owns the money also. This can be helpful when we need a family member to be able to access the money (although a power of attorney will work also) but it is a problem when that family member has a judgment against them.

    Who received the judgment against your son?

    What kind of money is in your bank account? Is it social security money? If so, it may be "exempt" from garnishment and the money may have to be put back in.

    Unfortunately the creditor can go after any bank account -- I assume yours was the one with the money and your son's other account may not have been.

    If you want to discuss this, feel free to give us a call and we can walk through your options.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • A collection company for cashtime money loan company states I wrote a bad check to them back in 2009,

    I have an account with the same bank and I can write checks and they say they can sue me...I'm in the state of Alabama I don't no what state. I just don't remember but they have my social

    John’s Answer

    The other responses are good responses -- you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and you need to be aware of the large number of scams related to cash advance/pay day loan type collections.

    This sounds so simple but this gets rid of 99% of the bogus collectors -- tell them you know there are a lot of scams and you want a real letter with a real stamp on it sent to you. They will say they can't do this -- they only can email or fax -- but insist on a real letter.

    Normally the scam guys go away -- they simply have a type of credit report of yours and are picking out old accounts on there and threatening you.

    If this is legitimate, they will gladly send you a letter and then you can decide what to do next.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • We believe our father is eligible for the VA benefit (aid and attendance) and an insurance person we know said he could submit

    the application on my father's behalf for X amount of dollars. Is it legal to charge someone to submit an application for this benefit?

    John’s Answer

    What Davis said is right on. If anyone that wants to charge you to do the application, you should run.

    It is legal to make money by doing legal work or by selling annuities, but you should know the amount and what you are paying for.

    Below is an article I wrote on the FTC report referenced by Davis.

    Best wishes,

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • What can I do if a hospital is trying to garnish my work wages?

    I was in the hospital for several months, thinking my insurance was covering the costs. It didn't, and now the hospital is garnishing my wages.

    John’s Answer

    The only way a garnishment is allowed in Alabama is after a judgment has been entered against you.

    Have you been sued? Did you get served? Did you lose the lawsuit?

    Remember there is a difference in being threatened to be sued or to be garnished and actually being sued, losing, and then being garnished.

    Get with a consumer protection lawyer or a bankruptcy lawyer. There are a number of lawyers in Jefferson County that can help you.

    Best wishes

    John G. Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama
    www.AlabamaConsumer.com

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  • Is there a general "spend down" list for families to review when spending down money? We want to make sure we follow the rules.

    What is the maximum monetary amount that can be (x-mas) gifted to children/grandchildren?

    John’s Answer

    If you are talking about "spending down" for Medicaid purposes, you need to get with a CT elder law lawyer.

    Here are some general items that often are acceptable but don't do anything without getting a formal opinion from a CT elder law lawyer.

    *Making necessary renovations to the house.
    *Purchasing a needed automobile (van, etc).
    *Prepaid burial.
    *The biggest thing is when you get "fair market value" in exchange for the money. So if you buy something at the fair market value, that normally is an allowable spend down strategy.

    The consequences, however, of doing the wrong strategy for your family's unique situation can be disastrous when looking to qualify for Medicaid.

    The penalty normally is your family member has to qualify for Medicaid (i.e. have virtually no assets) and then he or she will be penalized for a number of months so the family will have to privately pay for the nursing home care (up to $10,000 a month in some parts of the country).

    So take the time and money to find out your options.

    If you were talking about gifting with no eye towards medicaid (long term care) then that is a different matter. Bottom line is get with a good attorney in your area and you can be confident the plan your family is using is a good one.

    Best wishes

    John G. Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama
    www.AlabamaElderLawyer.com

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