Skip to main content
John Griffin Watts
Avvo
Pro

John Watts’s Answers

197 total


  • If placed in a nursing home, does this cancel lifetime estate rights to my home?

    Can the home be sold immediately if I'm still alive? If so, how long would a relative have to remove my belongings (he is also living in the house as my caretaker).

    John’s Answer

    As Wilson mentioned there are different issues involved here.

    If you go in a nursing home, you either need to pay for it privately (your own money, long term care insurance), pay for it with VA Pension (Aid and Attendance) or Alabama Medicaid.

    If you qualify for Alabama Medicaid you do not have to sell your home if you own it outright or have a life estate in it. Medicaid does NOT require you to lose your home -- it simply has the right to put a lien on your home that you own under some circumstances.

    This is a common myth -- you must sell your home before qualifying for Medicaid. The truth is your home is an "exempt" asset -- it does not count towards the amount of assets you are allowed to have when you qualify for Medicaid.

    As a general rule you can only have $2000 in assets -- but..... Your home doesn't count. Your car doesn't count. Certain other items don't count. And if you have a spouse your spouse can keep a certain amount.

    I suggest you get with an elder law attorney to find out your options and to get clear on whether you own your home outright or have a life estate in it.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

    See question 
  • Am I legally allowed to get a copy of a credit report a potential landlord ran?

    I had a credit report ran by a potential landlord. The application came back "declined" but he refuses to give me a copy of the report

    John’s Answer

    You should receive a letter called a notice of adverse action which tells you that part of the reason you were denied is because of information on your credit report and it will tell you which credit report is involved.

    You will then be told how you can get a copy of the report.

    The big three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) are the ones we normally think of but there are literally hundreds of reports. Some are for renting an apartment. Some are for truck drivers.

    Point is to get the adverse action notice and figure out which report is involved -- then get that report.

    If there is false information, dispute it properly and it will come off or you can sue.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

    See question 
  • All income just covers Assisted Living the suit will take away all money to pay for care. Can a company do that?

    My mother just got a letter saying she is being suited for $4700 debt. She is in assisted living and her basic cost of living exceeds her income, so she has no money to settle or to be paid if ordered to. Is there anything we ca do to stop the s...

    John’s Answer

    I defend consumers sued by debt collectors and I also practice Elder Law. Here are my thoughts:

    1. As suggested in the first answer, is your mother a veteran or a widow of a veteran? If so, she may be entitled to VA Pension (Aid and Attendance) which is for war time veterans (or widows) -- this could pay her up over a thousand dollars a month.

    2. If you ignore the suit, a default judgment will be entered against your mother. Does she have property? A bank account with anything other than Social Security/Pension money in it? All of that could be in jeapordy of being garnished. A judgment is also negative on her credit report which may or may not be a concern.

    3. You should sit down with a consumer attorney to find out the options on the lawsuit. It may be as simple as letting the collection attorney know there is no money or assets. It may be easy to win the lawsuit especially if it is brought by a debt collector (debt buyer). We routinely win these cases and then sue the debt buyer in federal court. Or you may be able to work out a very modest repayment plan.

    Here's bottom line -- you've done the right thing asking questions instead of ignoring the lawsuit. Now keep pushing forward to specific answers from a consumer lawyer in your state. If your mother is a veteran or widow of a veteran, also chat with an elder law attorney as that may be a source of income for her.

    Best wishes...

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

    See question 
  • Dr went in to perform a l5/s1 anterior fusion. After 13 days of insisting I had no feeling in my leg and being ignored I went

    To the Hospital for a ct which showed a screw 5mm into the nerve root on the back side. He did emergency surgery the next morning, said feeling would be back immediately, NOT! He lied and did not disclose his knowledge of issues in first surgery(n...

    John’s Answer

    Short answer is get with a lawyer in Alabama asap. There are not many lawyers that are skilled in malpractice -- feel free to get with me and I'll give you some recommendations. I try cases in federal court but malpractice is not my area of expertise.

    Longer answer is medical malpractice in Alabama is tough -- because of our special laws and in general our juries tend to be sympathetic with doctors (and to a lesser extent hospitals/nurses). You have 2 years to file suit but I would not delay. You need to connect right now with the right lawyer to figure out your options. Its been a few years since I have handled a med mal case but they tend to be very expensive -- 100k or so to prepare -- so lawyers are very very selective in what they will take. It will be helpful for you to start looking now for a lawyer.

    I'm sorry this happened to you and I hope that you are able to fully recover physically and then you also get the financial compensation you deserve.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

    See question 
  • What legally/financially am I responsible for with my 19 and 22 year old stepchildren regarding medical bills on my insurance?

    Last year I hesitantly added my two stepchildren to my employer insurance benefits. The oldest listed my husband and I as responsible for their psych visits. She has accrued multiple ER visits, ICU stays, therapy sessions, etc. I will need to div...

    John’s Answer

    Everything depends on exactly what documents were signed but as a general rule just because someone is on your policy does not mean you are responsible for the deductibles, co-pays, etc.

    As the previous answer suggests, gather up all of your bills and information and then sit down with someone -- an attorney or a health care advocate.

    You may want to make it clear to your adult step children that they should not list you as being responsible for their bills unless you agree to this.

    I know this is frustrating dealing with medical billing -- but just get started with compiling everything and then meet with someone to figure up your options.

    John Watts

    See question 
  • Question about Va Benefit, living trust and selling of home.

    Hi, my mother is in an assistive living center with alzheimers. She receives aid and attendence through the va. She also has a living trust which includes her home. As DPOA if I sell her home is the money considered income by the VA? I tried to ge...

    John’s Answer

    The other answers are right -- selling the home will not be income but will be an increase in assets which could push your mother over the asset limit and cut off her Aid and Attendance benefits.

    One thing to keep in mind is that you also need to consider Medicaid if she ever needs to go on Medicaid.

    The general rule is that if there is no gift -- but instead a fair market value transfer -- then Medicaid normally doesn't have a problem (at least in Alabama). So get with an elder law lawyer in your state to evaluate both the implications of the sale of the home on VA benefits but also on what it might do with Medicaid benefits if she ever needs them.

    Best wishes and you were very smart to raise this question -- so often people take action without knowing the right way to go and it becomes more difficult (and frankly more expensive) to fix the problem after the fact.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

    See question 
  • 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

    See question 
  • 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

    See question 
  • 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

    See question 
  • 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

    See question