Moving to a Care Community? – Read the Agreement

Moving to a Care Community? – Read the Agreement

When you have finally decided to move from home to a senior retirement
community that has levels of care – or when moving to a personal care/assisted
living community – you and your family might not be in the mood to read legal
agreements. The type is usually small and you figure you have no choice anyway.
There is too much to deal with. Between scheduling movers and cleaning out the
house, remembering to pack everything and filing a change of address, the list of
tasks may seem endless.

Still I would suggest that when documents are to be signed you should take
a closer look or ask your agent under power of attorney (you have one, right?) to
do it for you. If you or your power of attorney do not understand responsibilities,
you can check with an elder law attorney who can help.

Here are some examples of what to consider.

  • What kind of community are you moving to?

When moving to a Continuing Care Retirement Community or Life Care
Community, applicants could see documents that look like real estate transactions
but they might also have provisions regarding health insurance, entry fees,
deposits, costs if you move to a higher level of care, refunds and estate provisions.
We review many CCRC agreements as do other elder law attorneys. If you need
help understanding the agreement, there is help to be found.

When entering Assisted Living which in Pennsylvania is referred to as
Personal Care, papers for signing may include everything from laundry policies to
pharmacy selection, financial disclosures and statements of residents’ rights. Not
all papers to be signed are equally important but there should be some
understanding of what is being signed.

When going to a nursing home that accepts Medicaid, you and your agent
should know that nursing homes that take Medicaid cannot demand payment on
admission from an adult child or power of attorney from their own funds. However,
Pennsylvania does have support provisions regarding children referred to as “filial
responsibility.” If you cooperate with the nursing home or obtain assistance from
an elder law attorney in completing a Medicaid application properly and complying
with the rules, this should not be a problem.

Here are some other legal issues to consider before signing.
When adult children or spouses say they only need to complete some forms, I
sometimes am concerned about what they may be signing. There are specific
questions that the trained eye looks for that are not generally apparent to the
person completing the form.

  • For Persons Other Than the Person Being Admitted – Are You a
    Guarantor, Indemnitor, Responsible Party, Power of Attorney or Just a
    Family Member? When someone signs a legal document other than the
    person receiving the services it is natural to say “what am I committing
    myself to?” Sometimes it depends on how you sign. A “Guarantor” or
    “Indemnitor” typically agrees to pay even if it means from his or her own
    funds after the resident’s funds are exhausted. This kind of agreement is
    not common but sometimes happens. On the other hand, “Responsible
    Party” usually just means who should the community contact to deal with
    business matters. It does not mean responsible from your own funds.
    All agreements will say the applicant, that is the person receiving services,
    is responsible for payment from his or her own assets. This is obvious. If
    you are Power of Attorney, you need to be responsible with their assets
    and, as long as you are and do not give them away or dissipate them you
    should not be responsible personally. Also, there is an easy way to handle
    signing. Where possible and appropriate, have the person who is receiving
    care/being admitted to the community sign for himself/herself. In the
    alternative, if you need to sign, then sign “as power of attorney only.”
  • How To Be Protected. First, seek legal advice in advance if there is any
    confusion since it is better to resolve financial responsibilities than to dispute them
    later. Second, where the person moving into the facility is competent and able to,
    he might sign the forms. Third, if you must sign, state as “power of attorney only”
    or “as Agent only.” Finally, know your rights, check to see the bills are paid, seek
    help. You can be ok.

About the Author Janet Colliton

Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.

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