The Law Office of Stephen J. Silverberg, PC serves clients throughout metropolitan New York and New York City including Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Contact the firm if you are in need of legal assistance with New York Trusts and Estate Planning, New York Elder Law, New York Special Needs Planning or New York Business Planning and Wealth Preservation.
While anticipating the upcoming weekend, I started thinking about the trips and other activities our family planned every year at this time. I still remember my parents discussing what we should do for the Decoration Day Weekend. I clearly remember driving up to the Catskills and seeing signs for the Borscht Belt hotels, advertising the star performers during Decoration Day Weekend.
It then struck me: whatever happened to Decoration Day?
I immediately went to the source of all human knowledge, Google, and searched for Decoration Day. It turns out this date of remembrance began several years after the end of the Civil War. It was originally called Decoration Day, as it was the civic duty of all American families to decorate the graves of those who gave their lives in defense of our country.
So what happened to Decoration Day?
As many years and wars came and went, it slowly began to be referred to as Memorial Day. The purpose was the same, but the name had changed. This got me thinking a little bit more. I realized there is a language gap between me and my clients. We both use different words, but mean the same thing:
I say garbage can, they say dustbin; I say refrigerator, they say icebox;
I say Medicaid, they say welfare.
Welfare you say? Isn’t Medicaid a program to help those who require assistance in meeting their basic needs? You can sugarcoat it all you want, but the word Medicaid conjures up the words “welfare” and “relief” in many of our clients and with it, all of the negative attributes of those words. They still remember the Great Depression with people waiting on long breadlines, going to sleep hungry, and the knowledge that without any money or assets they are powerless. To these people money is independence; take away their money and they feel deprived.
That is why many of our senior clients are terrified of long-term care planning. While in their hearts they know that they must plan in order to avoid being wiped out by a catastrophic illness, on the other hand, they are equally afraid of transferring any assets to their family.
It is finding a balance between these competing interests that is critical.
As an Elder Law attorney, it is my job to find that balance that will help the family preserve assets for future needs of the seniors and family members that require special needs while allowing the clients to feel financially secure and independent.
Words don’t matter. You can call a Ford a Cadillac, but it is still a Ford. Keep that in mind the next time you discuss these issues with your family.
We read a lot about AARP – the programs they run for seniors, the local events, the TV ads that say “You don’t know AARP,” which, when you think about it, is a corporate slogan alluding to a mild profanity.
But here’s something you don’t know about AARP – this massive organization is a lobbying powerhouse and a sales machine. You have all seen the ads on TV for health insurance, mobile phone services, auto insurance and more. Read the small print: it says something to the effect that AARP receives a royalty payment for each service.
And it has specific practices I find particularly troubling, when you consider who they purport to protect: seniors!
I am an experienced attorney and business owner. I deal with complex documents, processing document and payments with courthouses, investment companies, banks, insurance companies, and more, regularly. These institutions' online systems work. Some are better than others, but mostly they perform as needed.
But the great and powerful AARP only accepts insurance claims by snail mail. You can’t even send them a claim form by fax. Here’s what’s making me aggravated: everything AARP does to bring in money is online: payment for memberships, insurance payments, etc.
But if you want AARP to pay you, you must work with an antiquated system that does not work well. When I first filed a claim, they mixed up my home address with my office address and sent a check to a location that does not exist, even though they had my correct address in their system. Three months went by before the problem was solved. Even an insurance company reluctantly paying a claim does better than that.
Most of my clients are computer literate, but some face mobility problems, and no longer pay any of their bills using snail mail. How would they be able to submit a claim?
Have you had a run in with AARP or been let down by a senior-focused organization that says one thing and does another? I’d like to hear about it - @elderlawya on Twitter or email@example.com.
A recent article in John Crudele’s New York Postcolumn shared a heartbreaking story about an elderly man whose son allegedly stole from him. I sent a note to John alerting him to the fact that the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) could be a source of help – he printed my entire letter in Sunday’s New York Post. I wanted to make sure that John and his readers understood that our members are dedicated to representing seniors, and I think that message was quite clear:
Dear John: I read the letter in your column about the man who allegedly stole from his elderly father.
I am a past president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), a national organization of attorneys that specializes in assisting our senior and special needs communities. We also advocate for our clients in Congress and state legislatures.
There are many who will help clients, regardless of resources. Unfortunately, in this situation where funds have been stolen, unless there is the possibility of recouping the assets, there is little that can be done.
An attorney should never undertake representation knowing he or she will not be able to help the client, whether paid or not.
On the other hand, if a person needs assistance in obtaining available health care and other benefits and legitimately cannot pay a fee, most of us will help anyway or find someone who can.
Please check out our Web site, www.naela.org to get a sense of what we do. S.S.
Dear S.S.: Thanks. I passed your information on to the person who wrote the letter.
And now everyone else who reads this column knows about your organization and how it can be of help to the elderly.