Protect Your Elder Parent from Financial Fraud

Dear Mr. Premack: My mother is in a long-term care facility on Medicaid. Her only income is social security, which is mailed to my address and I give the check to the facility each month. She is entitled to a $60 personal needs allowance. Can I close her trust fund and open a separate checking account at my bank, deposit her check into that account and write a check to the facility, minus the $60 that would otherwise be credited to her trust fund? The facility is reluctant to give me an accounting of those funds, even though I have durable power of attorney for mother. – SV

Many long-term care facilities manage patient trust funds for the $60 personal needs allowance. Under Medicaid regulations, the money in that account belongs to the patient and is a countable resource (meaning it should never be allowed to exceed $2000 when added to the patient’s other countable assets).

There is no legal requirement, however, that the $60 be deposited to a facility’s patient trust fund. You can keep it in a private account owned by your mother (over which you have signature rights). Medicaid should treat it exactly the same whether it goes to the long-term care facility or stays in a private account.

If the facility is balking at giving you an accounting, you have every motive to protect your mother by refusing to put more money into the patient trust fund. In fact, you should double your efforts to get an accounting and to take the currently deposited funds away from the facility. If they won’t be transparent, they may be having financial problems about which they don’t want you to know.

Paul Premack is a Certified Elder Law Attorney and a Five Star Wealth Manager (Texas Monthly Magazine 2009-2013) practicing estate planning and probate law in San Antonio.

Original Publication: San Antonio Express News, July 2, 2010

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