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John Griffin Watts
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John Watts’s Answers

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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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  • Can medical creditors get a lein and force the sale of property that is jointly owned by myself and my wife.

    I have 7.62 acres of land jointly owned by my wife and myself. The land is paid for, we live on the land in a double wide mobile home that is not paid for. I recently had a heart attack and have several thousand dollars in unpaid medical bills, I ...

    John’s Answer

    To get a lien, a judgment must be entered against you.

    To enter a judgment, the medical providers must win their case against you.

    To win their case against you, they have to sue you first.

    My point is you will have, most likely, plenty of time to try to work out these issues with them. Generally the medical bills are way over priced -- much more than the medical providers take from Blue Cross which requires medical providers to accept the "UCR" -- usual, customary, and reasonable payment amount.

    So even if you were uninsured, you may be able to get the bills reduced.

    Stay in touch with the medical providers and see if you can work out something fair with them.

    Remember if it goes to a collection agency, often collection agencies will violate the law, particularly the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

    Take good notes and keep good records of everything that occurs so you will be able to understand your options.

    Best wishes...

    John Watts

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  • Med/mal or neg? Dr defaults to patients, 'you are on your own' upon revocation of Schedule permit. Enforc/M.E.B. of AL

    Dr treats pt(s) for chronic pain utilizing meth/ over a 9 yr period, acting in good faith et., is cited, tried & found in non-compliance with AL contr/subst. Act., should upon being cited, Any of his pt's 'have expected' or received, a reasonable ...

    John’s Answer

    I'm not sure what you are asking here. Are you a patient who has been treated by this doctor? Are you upset because you could not get your prescriptions filled and this caused problems?

    Thanks

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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