Archive for October, 2012

Don’t Become Liable for Your Parent’s Long Term Care Costs

Posted on: October 29th, 2012 by Lawrence A. Friedman

Nursing homes may not require a child to guaranty a parent’s bill although some courts  may enforce a so-called “voluntary” guaranty.  Of course, in the stress filled admission of a parent to a care facility, a child may not realize that he/she is agreeing to a “voluntary” guaranty.  Care facility contracts frequently have other unfavorable provisions that can be difficult to understand or even notice.  Nevertheless, courts often enforce contracts against an individual who later claims he/she didn’t realize that the contract imposes undesirable obligations.

A recent case illustrates what can go wrong when a child signs a care agreement without fully understanding its terms and their ramifications.  Cook Willow Health Center v. Andrian (Conn. Super. Ct., No. CV116008672, Sept. 28, 2012).  The care facility alleged that a resident’s daughter signed an admission contract in which she agreed to take steps to pay the facility with her mother’s assets or qualify the mother for Medicaid.  Apparently the daughter didn’t follow through, as the nursing home sued the daughter for its unpaid bill.  The daughter tried to side step liability citing the prohibition of guaranty requirements, but the court held that there was no guaranty.  Instead, the court said in signing the admission contract as “responsible party”the daughter  had voluntarily committed to certain actions that should get the nursing home paid and the facility had a right to rely on that undertaking and sue the daughter for breach of contract.

How could the daughter have avoided liability?  A child doesn’t normally have an obligation to spend a parent’s money or apply for Medicaid– but see our May 8, 2012 blog post regarding state laws that may make a child liable for a parent’s health care costs.  Therefore, the daughter shouldn’t have agreed to these obligations unless  she was prepared to honor them.  Of course, the facility may have refused to admit the parent without a contract and the obligations weren’t inherently unreasonable.

Thus, it is crucial to consult a lawyer before signing any care facility agreement (or other contract).  A lawyer should explain the ramifications of a proposed contract and possibly recommend changes.  For instance, FriedmanLaw often helps clients understand facility agreements and negotiate more favorable terms.  Since ignorance of contract terms doesn’t excuse their breach, it is risky to sign any contract without first consulting a lawyer.

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How Old is Too Old to Drive?

Posted on: October 2nd, 2012 by Lawrence A. Friedman

Of course, it’s a “trick question.”  There is no bright age line between those who should and shouldn’t be driving.  As we all know, many factors beyond age influence whether an individual should drive.  As a car or other motor vehicle is a lethal weapon that can harm both the driver and others, nobody whether age 20 or 80 should drive unless he/she has the ability to handle the vehicle safely and is reasonably rested, alert, and attentive.  However, there is no basis to preclude an individual from driving merely because he/she has reached a particular age.   Nevertheless, since reflexes, vision, and acute hearing naturally decline when we age, it’s not surprising that we may need to change our driving habits as we age.  Fortunately, the federal government has studied this question in detail and produced a helpful and informative tool.

A new online resource from the National Institute of Health, (NIH) National Institute on Aging (NIA) at NIH and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can help older drivers and their families address this often sensitive topic. The Older Drivers webpage addresses ways in which aging affects driving–such as physical and cognitive changes, and changes in driving habits. Also discussed are common driving errors that seniors make, ways to avoid such mistakes, and general information on preventing accidents.  This thorough resource provides tips for safe driving as well as important safety features to look for in vehicles. It reviews the regulations many states have adopted to keep older drivers and those around them safe on the road. Finally, the Older Drivers webpage offers suggestions for how to assess when an older driver’s skills change, information on refresher courses, and alternative ways to get around when driving is no longer an option. Check out this valuable new resource at NIH’s website

A big thankyou to FriedmanLaw’s paralegal Nancy Hochenberger for contributing to this article.

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As this website provides general information and isn’t tailored to your particular situation, it doesn’t constitute legal advice and may not take into account rules and exceptions that affect you. Although updated from time to time, this website may not take account of recent legal developments or differences in laws from state to state. For safety sake, obtain individual legal advice before you act! You assume all risk of acting on information contained in this website. This website doesn’t constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship exists unless FriedmanLaw and you execute a written engagement agreement. Please contact us at 908-704-1900 to discuss engaging FriedmanLaw to help resolve your legal concerns.
Homepage photo: Cows grazing at Meadowbrook Farm, Bernardsville, NJ by Siddharth Mallya. October 23, 2012.
Interior photo: Somerset hills pastoral scene by Lawrence Friedman.