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Monday, November 26, 2012

Scrooge In The Real World: Issues of Capacity, Testamentary Intent, and Probate Contests by Texas Guardianship Lawyer and Texas Inheritance Lawyer Jason S. Coomer

Scrooge In The Real World: Tales of The Spirit of Giving, Testamentary Intent, Capacity, Guardianships, and Gift Aftermath by Austin Texas Guardianship Lawyer and Texas Inheritance Lawyer Jason S. Coomer

Almost everyone is familiar with the Charles Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol" and the story of Ebenezer Scrooge.  In the story, Ebenezer Scrooge claims to have been visited by three ghosts and because of the ghostly visits changes his miserly tendencies through the spirit of Christmas to give away large amounts of money and assets.  These gifts are given to several people around him including Bob Cratchit whose family greatly benefits from this change of heart and change of character.

In the real world, stories of large gifts and testamentary bequests prompted by ghostly visits and fear often create issues of capacity, guardianships, testamentary intent, undue influence, fraud, and will contests.  In my probate and guardianship practice, I hear many stories of an elderly person's sudden change of heart and change of spending/gifting/bequesting tendencies.  More often than not, many of these stories begin with declining memory of an elderly person and the entrance of a caretaker, financial adviser, employee, friend, long lost relative, or new spouse into the person's life.   

What happens in the real world when the spirit of gifting allegedly takes over a person and they give large gifts to an employee, a caretaker, or strangers?  What happens after the gifts are given and the person no longer has money or assets?

Scrooge in Real Life: Proving the Gift or Bequest Was Not From Undue Influence or Incapacity

In the real world, the story of Scrooge and his sudden change of heart may be looked at a bit differently than in the Dicken's story.  This is especially true if large gifts are given to strangers, caretakers, or new people in the person's life.  In these situations, the large gifts and changes in testamentary disposition prompted by ghostly visits may be perceived very differently from the perspective of the person's spouse, children, heirs, and the court.   

If a person that has saved money and assets most of their life, suddenly believes they are speaking with and interacting with ghosts and then because of this belief they give away large gifts, many issues may be raised including: 1) When should someone step in to determine if this person has the capacity and/or the testamentary intent to give away a large portion of their money and assets?  2) Does the giver understand the consequences of their actions?  3) Is this gift or bequest the result of undue influence, fraud, or incapacity?  4) When should the gift be allowed to be completed and when should it not?

 Texas Undue Influence Contests and Fraud Lawsuits Are on The Rise

Under Texas law a growing number of "gifts" and testamentary bequests are being questioned and contested including many gifts and bequests to employees, caretakers, strangers, and some relatives.  In determining if the gift or bequest can be successfully contested, the court is going to look to see if the person had capacity to give the gift or testamentary intent to make a bequest, and if the person was under undue influence when making the gift or bequest.  These determinations are fact issues that will be case specific and be dependent on numerous factors including the nature of the gifts; the giver's understanding of the gift/bequest and their relationship to the recipient; whether there has been any fraud or duress in the inducement in obtaining the gift/bequest; and if the gift was the result of drugs, alcohol, dementia, or a psychotic break.

In the real world, the explanation of being visited by three ghosts would probably merit a psychological evaluation by a medical doctor.  It may also be the basis of a claim for fraud, duress and undue influence from the person's heirs and beneficiaries. 

Also, it should be kept in mind that in many situations where the giver is elderly and may be developing memory problems, it is common for the person to later forget about the gift or bequest.  As such, in some situations it may be a good idea to properly document the gift or bequest to ensure that it can be proven that the gift or bequest was not the result of incapacity or undue influence.  This can often be tricky as there may be disgruntled heirs that will later contest the gift or bequest regardless of the situation and the person receiving the gift may not be in the position to insist on proper documentation. However, consulting a lawyer regarding a large gift or bequest is typically a good idea.  In these situations, the lawyer will typically want to meet alone with the person giving the gift or bequest to ensure that the person has capacity and is not under undue influence.

Scrooge The Day After,  A Year After, and 5 Years After

In the story of Scrooge, we stop when he is still rich and in the process of giving.  However, what happens the day after, year after, or five years after the spirit of generosity has taken over?  For a lucky few they have so much money and wealth that it doesn't matter.  They can give away hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars and still not see a change in their lives.  However, for the majority people a year or two of giving can deplete their life savings.  

What happens to these people?  What if they have giver's remorse?  What if they need their wealth back for medical or nursing home care?

For some under, it might seem like a good idea to give away large gifts, especially, to avoid potential estate taxes or to be able to qualify for future Medicaid benefits and avoid having a nursing home drain all of a family's assets.  However, these issues must be considered carefully before anyone gives away their wealth and assets.  Being without sufficient assets in case of a serious medical problem can create serious problems for someone that has made large gifts in the last 5 years. Under the Medicaid look back period, there is a 5 year look back period to qualify.  If a person like Scrooge decides to give away their assets and then in a year or two requires nursing home or other health care benefits, they may regret the gifts.  In most of these situations where the person made large gifts and now cannot afford medical care and nursing home care, the person cannot qualify for Medicaid benefits until these "gifts" are paid back.  This creates a problem for the person that gave the gift and sometimes for the person that received the gift.  Trust, loyalty, and communication are keys in these situations.

Likewise, what happens when the person is attempting to take advantage of gifts to avoid estate taxes.  In these situations, the person gifting their assets will need to give up control of their assets to take advantage of the gift tax.  Whether through out and out gifts or irrevocable trusts, it is important for the person intending to give large gifts to understand once they give the gift it is gone.  They cannot take back the gift if circumstances change.

In most situations, it is important for the giver to understand the consequences of the gifts that they are giving especially if these assets may be needed in the future.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Federal Contractor Fraud: Federal Contractor Fraud Whistleblowers Can Recover Large Rewards For Properly Exposing Federal Contractor Fraud by Texas Federal Contractor Fraud Lawyer Jason Coomer

Federal Contractor Fraud Whistleblower Rewards Under The Federal False Claims Act: The Federal False Claims Act and Department of Justices Are Offering Large Financial Rewards To Federal Contractor Fraud Whistleblowers That Are The First To Properly Expose Federal Contractor Fraud and Federal Grant Fraud by Texas Federal Contractor Fraud Lawyer and Federal Contractor Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Coomer

The Department of Justice through the Federal False Claims Act is offering federal contractor fraud whistleblowers large rewards for being the first to properly report large federal contractor fraud, federal grant fraud, and other fraud committed against the federal government.  These rewards have resulted in Billions of dollars in recoveries for the United States and hundreds of millions of dollars in recoveries for whistleblowers.  New expansions of the Federal False Claims Act are expected to expose additional fraud and create even larger recoveries in the future.

Federal Government Spending, Federal Government Contracting, and Federal Government Contractor Information

Federal Government spending has increased dramatically over the last 10 years including large increases in health care spending and defense contractor spending as well as large bailouts of the financial sector.  With this increased Federal Government spending has come a large increase in the number of government contractors and fraudulent government contractors that submit fraudulent documents and false certifications of products and services.
To help keep track of increased government spending and government contractors, the Office of Management and Budget has created OMB Watch which "exists to increase government transparency and accountability; to ensure sound, equitable regulatory and budgetary processes and policies; and to protect and promote active citizen participation in our democracy."  OMB Watch envisions "a more just and democratic society, one in which an open, responsive government protects people's health, safety, and well-being, safeguards the environment, honors the public's right to information, values an engaged and effective citizenry, and adequately invests in the common good."   For more information on OMB Watch and Federal government spending, please go to the following web site: Fedspending.org

Government Contracting, Acquisitions, and Regulations

Federal Government Contracting can be extremely complicated, but lucrative.   Civil False Claims Act creates financial incentives for private citizens that have knowledge of government contractor fraud to blow the whistle on these fraudulent contractors. Whistleblowers under the act not only receive protection from the government for their A key provision of the act was known as qui tam.
WIFCON.com serves "the federal acquisition community by providing quick access to acquisition information such as contracting laws and pending legislation, current and proposed regulations, guidance, courts and boards of contract appeals, bid protest decisions, contracting newsletters, and selected analysis of federal acquisition issues."  For more information on Federal Government Contracting, please go to the following web site, WIFCON.com.- Where in Federal Contracting?

Federal Business Opportunities is also an excellent web site for information on Federal Government Contractors and Contracting.  For more information on Federal Government Contracting, please go to the following web site, Federal Business Opportunities.

Blowing the Whistle on Those that Commit Fraud Against the United States Government, First to File Provisions of the Federal False Claims Act, and Preserving Relator Rights to Share in Recovery of Funds

If you are aware of a defense contractor, highway contractor, large health care company, FEMA contractor, HUD contractor, or other large contractor or subcontractor that is defrauding the United States Government out of millions or billions of dollars, it is important to blow the whistle on the government contractor fraud.  By reporting the fraud you can save the government and taxpayers large amounts of money. 

Further, if you are the first to file and blow the whistle correctly pursuant to the Federal False Claims Act, you may be able to share in the recovery.  As such, to become a relator it is important to collect evidence of the fraud and work with experienced attorneys to make sure that every effort is made to protect your rights as a relator, qui tam plaintiff, and government contractor fraud whistleblower, so that you can share in the recover that is made from your heroic efforts.

For more information on Federal Contractor Fraud Whistleblower Lawsuits, please feel free to contact Texas Federal Contractor Fraud Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Coomer.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Medicare Fraud Whistleblowers: Probate Lawyers and Executors Are Seeing More Medicare Fraud That Can Be The Basis of Medicare Fraud Whistleblower Reward Lawsuits by Medicare Fraud Whistleblower Lawyer Jason S. Coomer

Medicare Fraud Whistleblowers: Probate Lawyers and Executors Are Seeing More Systematic Medicare Fraud By Nursing Homes, Home Health Care Providers, and other Health Care Providers That Can Be The Basis of Medicare Fraud Whistleblower Reward Lawsuits by Medicare Fraud Whistleblower Lawyer Jason S. Coomer

Health care costs in the United States are over $2.3 Trillion each year and are continuing to rise.  Included in these costs are a significant amount of Medicare fraud including nursing home Medicare fraud, home health care fraud, assisted living facility Medicare fraud, and other fraud directed at seniors.  Some estimates suggest that health care fraud including Nursing home Medicare fraud is about 10% of the cost of health care.  These numbers are expected to rise as more people become eligible for Medicare and more people move to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Because of the growing number of Medicare eligible recipients, more and more people will pay for their health care including nursing homes, hospice, home health care, physical therapy, pharmacies, and medical equipment through Medicare.  The nursing homes and associated health care providers that accept Medicare payments too often find that it is more profitable to use fraudulent billing practices to increase their income from Medicare.  These nursing homes and elder care providers sometimes begin to use systematic Medicare Fraud including upcoding, manipulation of outlier payments to Medicare, illegal kickbacks, charging for unnecessary services, double billing for services, and falsely certifying goods or services that were not provided are all forms of Medicare fraud that cost United States taxpayers billions of dollars each year. 

These forms of Medicare fraud can often be difficult to detect and often require the family of a senior or the administrator of the person's estate to detect the fraud.  In these situations, it is important to determine if there is significant billing fraud taking place and if it may be systematic.  If this is the case, it can often be beneficial to work with a Medicare fraud whistleblower lawyer to determine the extent of the fraud and help build a whistleblower reward lawsuit that can expose the fraud as well as potentially result in a large financial recovery.
Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Medicare Billing, Elder Care Billing, Nursing Home Revenue, and the Prospective Payment System (PPS)

Most nursing home and elder care costs are paid through Medicare, Medicaid, and government programs.  To be able to collect Medicare, Skilled Nursing Facilities have to use the Prospective Payment System and follow government regulations.  Under these regulations, Medicare will pay some nursing home costs for Medicare beneficiaries who require skilled nursing or rehabilitation services. To be covered, the person must receive the services from a Medicare certified skilled nursing home after a qualifying hospital stay. A qualifying hospital stay is the amount of time spent in a hospital just prior to entering a nursing home.  Unfortunately, some Skilled Nursing Facilities are violating the qualified hospital stay requirement.

In the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Congress mandated that payment for the majority of services provided to beneficiaries in a Medicare covered skilled nursing facilities SNF stay be included in a bundled prospective payment made through the fiscal intermediary (FI)/A/B Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) to the skilled nursing facilities SNF. These bundled services have to be billed by the skilled nursing facility to the FI/A/B MAC in a consolidated bill.  This Consolidated Billing in nursing homes was implemented in 1998 and required all skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and nursing facilities (NFs) to file consolidated billing for Medicare.

Under Consolidated Billing the facility must submit all Medicare claims for the Part B services and supplies that all its Medicare residents receive, except for certain services specifically excluded. Medicare pays the facility, and the facility then reimburses any external providers or suppliers according to contractual arrangements.

By checking Medicare Summary Notice (MSN), a Medicare recipient, guardian, or estate administrator may discover systematic Medicare fraud that can result in a large Medicare fraud whistleblower recovery for the government and for the persons that report the systematic Medicare fraud.  Medicare fraud whistleblowers that are able 1) to obtain original and specialized information of significant fraud and 2) are the first to file regarding the specific Medicare fraud can save taxpayers millions of dollars and recover a large reward for reporting the fraud. 

For more information on properly reporting a large health care provider that is committing systematic Medicare fraud including double billing, phantom billing, illegal kickbacks, upcoding, bill padding or other types of Medicare Fraud, please feel free to contact Medicare Fraud Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Coomer.