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Office Hour Change

Effective January 16, 2015:

Monday – Thursday
9:00am - 5:00pm

Friday
9:00am - Noon

We will be unavailable for appointments or phone calls on Friday afternoons, so that we may finalize our work for the week. This also ensures that we have some uninterrupted time to devote to the needs of our clients.

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What to Do When a Veteran Passes Away

 

Source: US Dept. of Veteran Affairs

The loss of a loved one is a difficult experience.

 

The VA has established a streamlined process for families, executors and legal representatives to follow to notify VA about the death of a Veteran.

 

Why should I notify the VA about the death of a Veteran?

  • Notifying VA limits the change for others to falsely use the Veteran’s identity
  • By updating the Veteran’s information, you will reduce the likelihood of VA continuing to send correspondence about VA benefits, services, and bills.
  • You are helping the VA maintain up-to-date records, which will enhance the agency’s efforts to better distribute services to the Veteran community.

Steps for notifying the VA

  1.  Step one is for the next-of-kin and/or legally authorized representative under State law
    to retrieve an official copy of the Veteran’s death certificate.
  2. Step two is to submit the death certificate to VA by:
    a. hand delivering or mailing a copy of the death certificate to the Office of Decedent
    Affairs at the VA medical facility where the Veteran was receiving healthcare
    benefits, or
    b. contacting the VA Health Resource Center at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) for additional
    instructions.

Going Down the Rabbit Hole

 

 

As a plenary guardian for the person and property, there is a lot to do. The question is how far to go? What is the possible net gain?
The cost of doing this is something to consider. The courts expect value for the time you spend (and time charged to the client). They also may expect you to look for unclaimed funds, but they do not want you to “waste” the ward’s time (or money) going down rabbit holes that have nothing in them.

But, how do you know if all the research and time will end up benefiting the client in the end?
We became the guardian for Mrs. T. in 2012. Her spouse had passed away in 2007.
Since her job was an admin in H.R., she was organized and a well-trained, experienced administrator, it would be reasonable to assume that she had filed for his life insurance claims years before, right?

 

Nope, not only that but for over those 5 years since his death, she had been continuing to have his life insurance premiums deducted from her federal pension, costing her thousands.

 

Because we did all the research, going back 5 years, we were able to file for his life insurance claim and get the reimbursement of all those premiums as well. Thousands of dollars gained…this time.

 

How Can I Leave Him in the Cooler?

 

As the ETG guardian of a recently widowed gal whose husband’s body had not yet been cremated (4+ weeks), I felt very pressured to authorize and pay for his cremation (with her funds). However, I had some recollection that our judge had issues with that.

 

We were at a hearing (on another issue) and inquired of the court’s perspective on this subject. The judge said that he was not aware of any law that allowed a guardian to use the assets of the surviving spouse to pay for the deceased spouse’s final arrangements. Furthermore, if the guardian did work on those types of arrangements that they could get in hot water with the courts for charging the “ward” billing time or expense for those activities that did not benefit the ward. Those were his (the deceased spouse’s) future estate issues.

 

The judge understood the dilemma and instructed us to “find” and bring him a way that this could be done within the limits of the guardianship laws. In our research, we found 744.397 which was very helpful for this client (the judge signed the order right away). It was also very helpful for another client (that had a parent in this similar situation). Remember, when all else fails, read 744!:)

 

Tip: Be careful what you sign for the ward – lately, service provider’s contracts are getting much more “legal” and have many provisions showing up that are risky (to the ward and the guardian) if signed. From transportation companies’ service agreements, to ALF fall risk forms, to SNF elopement policies, to Personally Responsible Clauses, if at all possible, these contracts need to be reviewed by your counsel (sometimes a timing issue) in advance of your signature so that you are not signing something that could create future issues for you or the ward. Be especially aware of Arbitration wording – which could give up the civil right of you (for the ward) to initiate a lawsuit.