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John Griffin Watts
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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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  • My mother, 73, moved in with us 6 mo. ago. She has Alz and will need extended care. She has no real assets and draws $1510 a mo.

    Is she eligible for medicaid?

    John’s Answer

    As the other lawyers have said, you need to get with a Georgia elder law attorney as quickly as you can.

    Georgia has Medicaid benefits but your mother will need to qualify for them. From what you have said, it sounds like she likely will but get with a lawyer to make sure.

    Qualifying for Medicaid can be confusing at times and you want to make sure that everything is done correctly and that there were no improper transfers within the last five years that might affect her ability to qualify for Medicaid.

    I'm sorry you are in this situation and hope that you can get some good advice ASAP so you can make the right decision for your mother.

    Best wishes

    John G. Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • I am being sued by a dedit collector when i got the loan i did not put my husband name on the account can they get his wages

    I got the loan in july and then I lost my job before I could make a payment my husband was not working at the time and he just got back to work i am still not working but he is not on the loan and we have been trying to pay everything and i have b...

    John’s Answer

    Read Ron's answer again -- he is correct.

    You have a very limited time to answer -- I suspect you have been sued in Small Claims court or District court which only allows 14 days to answer.

    If you don't answer, you will lose (default judgment).

    Go ahead and get with a consumer lawyer as soon as you can to find out what your options are....

    Best wishes

    John G. Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • I am worried when you get a loan and they sue you do they pull the refrences in on it

    i need help please

    John’s Answer

    Your references will not be sued unless they cosign on the loan.

    If you are dealing with a pay day loan or title loan, these places will often violate the law by harassing your references and threatening them.

    If this is happening, get with a consumer rights lawyer here in Alabama to find out your options.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Relating to Elder Law, how can we save some of our mother's money so that a nursing home or the state does not take it all?

    Our mother is will be going to a nusring home soon, what is the best way to save some of her money so that a nursing home or the state does not take it all? We have heard it can be gifted, or could we put it in an esacroe in case she needs it late...

    John’s Answer

    You absolutely need to meet with an "Elder Law" attorney. I think what you are asking is whether you can get some type of benefit to pay for the nursing home care your mother needs.

    Normally this is Medicaid.

    Medicaid differs slightly in every state (i.e. in Alabama where I am the rules can be different than in MA) but the general principles are the same. Medicaid looks to see if your mother has transferred any assets within (normally) the last five years. If so, there can be penalties where she will not qualify for Medicaid even though she has very limited assets and income.

    Speaking of assets and income, you need to speak with a MA elder law lawyer to find out exactly what are the requirements in MA to qualify -- the amount of assets and income she can have.

    Don't assume you know what these are or that the nursing home or social worker or your CPA etc knows which assets count and which don't. It can get complicated.

    There are ways to potentially preserve some of her assets -- your MA elder law lawyer can help you with this.

    I don't know what the amount of assets your mother has but given that the family will be facing nursing home bills of 5,000 or 10,000 a month, it makes sense to spend some money and time with a competent elder law lawyer to find out your mother's rights and options.

    Best wishes -- know this is a difficult situation but having answers will really help you and your mother to make the right decision.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama
    www.AlabamaElderLawyer.com

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  • I was issued a credit card from Household bank which hails in Illinois.my last payment was in July of 2009.I now live in Alabama

    I recieved a notice from Portfolio LLC for collections.Am I covered by Statue of Limitations here in Alabama ?

    John’s Answer

    The statute of limitations is a complicated subject in credit card cases because it may be Alabama law that applies or it may be the law of whatever state is mentioned in the credit card agreement.

    If it is Alabama law, the collection lawyers say 6 years and I say 3 years.

    The more important issue is Portfolio Recovery is a notorious debt buyer -- we sue them regularly in Alabama and just recently received a judgment against them.

    If they sue you they have to prove they own the debt -- hard for them to do apparently as I have never seen them do it.

    But even if outside the statute of limitations, they can still collect against you.

    My suggestion is write to them and let them know you dispute the debt (you have no way of knowing if they truly have the right to collect against you, correct?) and ask them to send you proof that you owe this debt and that they own it.

    Carefully document every communication you have with them -- when you write send it certified mail. Save every voicemail, etc.

    Best wishes -- let me know if you have any other questions or if I did not answer your question.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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