Blog and Other News

This is our blog and where the Ruston Attorneys at Goff and Goff Attorneys post consumer news and information concerning consumer safety, divorce law, injury law, family law, wills and estate law, succession law, dangerous products and recalls, news and information relative to criminal defense, federal criminal defense, criminal appeals, estate planning, elder law, auto accident law, car wreck law, and other information that is germane to the friends and clients of the Ruston attorneys at Goff and Goff.  

We will also post information and articles here that are too lengthy to post in facebook or on twitter.

Medicare, Medicaid, and Alphabet Soup.

Many people confuse Medicare and Medicaid. And, why not? They are spelled almost the same, and they both are government programs that have to do with health care. However, they are very, very different, and a proper understanding of the basics is necessary to make sure that you or your loved one can does not misstep when making important decisions concerning health care or long-term care. Even if you are not in that situation right now, it is never too early to gain a basic awareness and understanding of these programs that are so important to older Americans and their loved ones. In this piece, I will attempt to help you navigate through some of the basics.

Louisiana Medicaid

Medicaid is a health care assistance program. Its guidelines (and substantial funding) come from the federal government, but it is administered by the state.  Each state’s program is different, but must work within the guidelines that the federal government provides.

Medicaid eligibility is based on a person’s income and assets and, generally speaking, is available to people with disabilities, people over age 65, children (and the parents of eligible children), and pregnant women.  Moreover, Louisiana Medicaid can also pay for long-term nursing home care.  With proper planning by a Louisiana elder law attorney, seniors can become qualified such that they have a co-pay based on their income for the nursing home care, and Medicaid will cover the rest.  Medicare does NOT pay for long-term care. There are extensive regulations and laws that govern who can qualify for Medicaid, so it is important to talk with a lawyer skilled in this field regarding you or a loved one becoming eligible.

Medicare

Medicare is a health insurance program funded by and administered by the federal government.  This means that it is uniform from state to state.  As with any government program, a person must meet certain requirements before receiving Medicare. To qualify for Medicare benefits at least 65 years old or have a severe disability. To qualifiy at age 65, a person must be a United States citizen or a permanent legal resident that has lived here for at least five consecutive years. Additionally, he or she must have worked long enough to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits (regardless of whether he or she has started receiving those benefits).  However, in order for a disabled person under the age of 65 to receive Medicare, he or she must have received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for two years.  (SSDI is not the same as SSI, which is Supplemental Security Income, a means-based program.) If a person meets Medicare’s eligibility requirements, her or she can receive Medicare without regard to his or her income or assets. Costs for Medicare are based on the recipient’s work history. This means that costs are determined by the amount of time a person paid Medicare taxes. These costs like all insurance include premiums, copays, and prescriptions.

Another thing that can be confusing about Medicare is its so-called alphabet soup of “plans.” We all hear advertisements referring to Parts A, B, C, D.  Although I will explain these in detail in a later piece, I will provide you with a quick summary. Part A works like insurance for hospitalization. Part B works like insurance for medical. Part D is an option plan that provides prescription drug coverage. Parts A and B are covered in Original Medicare offered by the government. Part C is often called the Medicare Advantage Plan. This is a private health plan. The Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Part C plan are required to include the same coverage as Original Medicare but usually also include Part D as well. Additionally, there are other plans, such as Part F. Part F, sometimes referred to as Medigap, is supplemental insurance that covers those things that Medicare does not. It is important to do your homework on these plans to find what works best and is most cost effective for you. 

Can You Qualify for Both Medicare and Medicaid?

In some circumstances, one can be eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare.  In this situation, the two programs can work together. For example, Full Medicaid benefits can cover the costs of Medicare deductibles and cover the 20% of costs not covered by Medicare. (Medicare costs include premiums, copays, and deductibles.) Medicaid may also cover the costs of premiums for Medicare Part A and/or Part B.)

If you are interested in learning more about how you or a loved one may be able to qualify for having Medicaid defer some or all of your or your loved one’s long-term care nursing home costs, please contact Ruston, Louisiana elder law attorney Add Goff.

 

National Estate Planning Week

It’s National Estate Planning Awareness Week — Food for Thought. It is not just for the wealthy. Middle class folks need to be aware of the need for preplanning also.

In 2008, Congress declared the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. There are a few common misconceptions about the need for estate plans, so here is some food for thought from a Ruston elder law and estate law attorney. First, the most frequent misconception we hear is “I’m too young.” In fact, it’s never too early. Tragedy can strike at any minute, and responsible planning is one of the best gifts you can give your loved ones during that tough time. Hope and pray for the best, but plan for the worst. As the Boy Scouts say: “Be prepared.” 

Second, elder care plans are not just for the rich. In today’s economy, very few people can afford to pay several thousand dollars a month for long term care. Thus, planning is probably more important for middle-income Americans than anyone else. 

Finally, many people are content with the State’s rules deciding who gets what after a death. However, Murphy usually shows up at the worst of times. What happens if there is a disability of a loved one? Probate without planning can result in a disabled grandchild’s losing government healthcare benefits. What happens if one of your descendants becomes the victim of a disease such as substance abuse? Proper planning can ensure that the money for which you’ve worked so hard will not be wasted away on drug dealers. Hopefully, none of this will come to pass. This is merely food for thought. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” 

An Elder Law attorney can help you decide what estate plan is right for you and your family so you don’t have to wait until a crisis occurs or a succession is opened. Call us. We can help.




Spring Cleaning — Expunge your Criminal A rrest and Conviction Records in Louisiana

The job market is getting tougher every day. With more and more people competing in the workplace, youthful indiscretions and run-ins with the law can have a great impact and may very well be the difference between you and an otherwise equally (or less) qualified competitor. Filing expungement proceedings may be your answer. An expungement is a legal process whereby a person’s criminal conviction and arrest records may be made non-public. (Certain crimes (such as sex offenses) cannot be expunged. Additionally, certain agencies (such as the Louisiana Board of Nursing) still have access to the records. 

Generally, there are two situations in which a criminal record may be expunged, namely when the arrest does not result in a conviction (such as pre-trial diversion or intervention, dismissal, acquittal, failure to prosecute) or after a certain period of time has elapsed between the completion of the sentence and the filing of the expungement. This period is generally five years for the expungement of misdemeanor convictions and ten years for the expungement of a felony record.

“Processing fees” are now required to be filed with the expungement paperwork. These fees total between $500 and $600, depending on the crime. Some of the fees can be by check, but some must be by money order. Louisiana law provides that the processing fees are non-refundable, so it is vitally important that your expungement paperwork be prepared correctly before it is filed. 


Fingerprinting and background checks are now required under the new law. An expungement cannot be filed without these documents. The background check must be an official check from the State of Louisiana. Your local clerk’s office cannot provide you with a criminal background check that would qualify. It can often take up to a month to obtain this check. 

When the legislature changed the expungement law in 2014, lengthy delays in favor of the State of Louisiana were added. After the filed expungement pleadings are served, each agency, including the State of Louisiana, has sixty days within which to object. If there is an objection from the state based on a technicality or otherwise, then the judge will set the matter for a court hearing to determine whether the objection was legally based and whether the expungement pleadings were properly drafted. If there is no objection, then an order may be presented to the judge. That order is again served on the agencies, who are to then expunge their records. The state usually sends back a certification. It can take several months for the state to get to your expungement and send out the certification. Accordingly, the sooner your expungement is filed and you are in the pipeline, the sooner your expungement can go through. The state handles these orders on a first-come-first-served basis.

Under the new law in Louisiana , expungement of a criminal record has become a very specific, expensive,  and time-consuming process. Much of the judge’s discretion has been taken away. If done incorrectly, the $500 or more in “processing fees” (expungement court costs) may be be wasted. Contact a Louisiana expungement lawyer so that your expungement is done correctly the first time. It often costs  more in legal fees to try to fix an improperly handled expungement than it would have to have hired an expungement attorney to do it right the first time.

DEBT COLLECTION SCAM HITS ELDERLY IN RUSTON AREA!

        Elderly in the Ruston area are being targeted by unscrupulous debt collectors resulting in the loss of thousands of dollars.  Recently, an elderly client, Mr. Smith (not his real name) was terrorized by an out-of-state debt buyer. A debt buyer is a company that buys old, often uncollectable debts from the original creditor for pennies on the dollar.   Mr. Smith, a man in his 80s, lost his wife to cancer nearly 20 years ago.  While she was ill, the couple ran up a large credit card bill for living expenses, and in the end the client was unable to pay them.  The debts were written-off by the credit card company as uncollectable many years ago.  At some point a debt buyer purchased the account.

        Last month, 18 years later, and long after the statute of limitations on the debt had run, Mr. Smith received a phone call from the debt buyer.  The caller threatened to take Mr. Smith’s bank account and to garnish his social security, his only income, if he didn’t comply with the demand for immediate payment. Afraid he would lose everything, Mr. Smith agreed to pay $4000 that day, and make monthly payments against the remaining balance. Mr. Smith gave the collector his credit card number and access to other financial information.  A few days later, Mr. Smith began to wonder if he had done the right thing.  He contacted his credit card company, but the credit card company refused to reverse the $4000 charges.  Devastated and in tears, Mr. Smith contacted the Elder Care Law Attorneys at Goff and Goff.  Bank accounts cannot be garnished without first proving the validity of the debt in court and obtaining a judgment. Social security is not subject to garnishment for bad credit card debts.  The debt collector lied to scare this vulnerable senior into paying a debt that was no longer due. 

            The attorneys at Goff and Goff were able to get the client’s money back quickly, but only because he realized something wasn’t right and took action.  PLEASE alert your elderly friends and relatives to be weary of these types of calls!  If they have already been scammed, they need to take action immediately.  Call an attorney.  If you call Goff and Goff, we would be honored to help.  We practice in the areas of Elder Law, Family Law, Wills and Estates, Successions, Personal Injury and Criminal Law    

Protecting your Children through the Custody and Divorce Process

We know how frustrating and scary it can be.  You want to protect your children from the ugly aspects of your divorce and child custody case, but your spouse is hell bent on putting them in the middle, making them chose sides, or worse, turning them against you.

You fear asserting your parental rights and the rights of your children to the guidance and maximum contact with both parents will ratchet up the tension, bitterness and venom from the other parent.  Taking the high road while insisting on the right thing for the children can be a difficult task.  You need help.  You need guidance.  You need a divorce attorney who understands the ins and outs of this battle.

The knowledge and support gained by hiring an experienced child custody attorney can take the fear out of the process, help you deflect the bitterness and manipulation of the other side, and help you stay on that high road for the sake of your children.  A child custody attorney will clarify the law as it relates to your situation, what your true rights are and how the courts will likely apply the law to your circumstances.  A child custody lawyer can help you plan your response to the bitterness and manipulation, guide you through the child custody process, and increase your chances of a favorable outcome for the children. 

If you need help with a child custody matter, please call us at 318-255-1760.  We are here to help.  Put Ruston child custody Attorney Shelley Goff’s 25 years of experience negotiating and litigating child custody cases to work for you.

 To learn more about child custody and how a child custody lawyer can help in your case, read “Child Custody 101,” found here


Ruston Family Law Attorney Published in Nationally Circulated Magazine

Recently Ruston family law attorney Shelley Goff was asked to write an article for the The Warrior, national legal journal. The article is entitled “Irreconcilable Differences:  The Use of TLC Methods in Domestic Relations Cases.”   Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers College teaches lawyers methods for presenting the truth to judges and juries and is usually thought to apply to personal injury and criminal defense cases.  In her article, Shelley, a 2004 graduate of the prestigious college, outlines how she uses these methods in representing parties to divorce, child custody, support, and other family law cases.  The article appears in the magazine’s Winter 2013 issue.  

TLC Warrior TOC







Ruston child custody and visitation lawyer Shelley Goff - state registered Mediator.

Recently Shelley Goff has become a registered mediator for child custody and visitation cases.  A mediator is a neutral third party that helps couples going through a divorce try to work out issues without the expense of going to court. In doing so, she does not render legal advise.  The parties to the mediation may, but are not required to have legal representation at the mediation while they try to work out their differences in hopes of limiting or eliminating the issues that they raise in court.  Often mediations are an efficient and economical method of handling family law issues.  Under some circumstances, courts require parties to attempt to resolve their disputes through mediation before litigating the issues in court. 


North Louisiana criminal defense lawyer Shelley Goff invited to join National Trial Lawyers - Top 100 Trial Lawyers

Recently criminal law attorney Shelley Goff was selected to join the National Trial Lawyers - Top 100 Trial Lawyers.  According the the unsolicited invitation letter, the organization evaluated Ms. Goff’s qualifications and determined that she exemplified the superior qualifications, trial results, and leadership in her area.  




Ruston attorneys at Goff and Goff volunteer in the Junior Judge’s Program.

Recently Shelley and Add Goff, together with 4 other members of the Lincoln Parish Bar Association volunteered at Ruston Elementary School teaching through the Junior Judge’s program.  During the program, the attorney watched videos with the children  and discussed the tough situations presented in those videos.  Together with the children they would come up with the appropriate choices and responses would be if the child were facing a similar  situation. The situations included cheating, destroying property, bullying, teasing, stealing, drugs, alcohol, gangs, and weapons.  

Ruston Criminal Defense Attorney Receives Blackstone Recognition from LACDL for winning Federal Criminal Jury Trial

The Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (LACDL) recently recognized criminal defense attorney Shelley Goff with the association’s prestigious Blackstone Order 10:1:







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