What is HIPAA?

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By: JM Megail Gaumer

HIPAA stands for “Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act”. The law was adopted in 1996 to, among many other complicated provisions, protect patients’ personal information (a.k.a. protected health information).

So what is considered “protected health information”? The Privacy Rule protects all individually identifiable health information held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associates, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper, or oral. The Privacy Rule calls this information protected health information (PHI).

“Individually identifiable health information” is information, including demographic data, that relates to:

  • The individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition.

  • The provision of healthcare to the individual, or

  • The past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual.

So what does it mean to you? If you are injured and cannot speak for yourself, your family may not be able to obtain information about your condition.

What can you do? It is imperative that you have healthcare directives (a Health Care Power of Attorney or Living Will) that include language specifically permitting your loved ones to require that the hospital release your protected health information to them. This will allow individuals you name to obtain information regarding your care and condition.

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What is a Medallion Signature Guarantee?

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By Jon Stevenson

The Medallion Signature Guarantee is used to verify the identity of an owner when selling or transferring traded assets such as stocks or bonds.This reduces the risk of the company processing the transfer by sharing the liability with the institution that provided the guarantee stamp. It serves as protection for the owner by limiting the likelihood of an unauthorized transfer and the transfer company by reducing losses if a signature is forged.

The Medallion Signature Guarantee is not the same as a notary stamp and they cannot be used interchangeably. The Medallion Signature is provided by financial institutions such as banks and credit unions because they are able to take financial responsibility. Notary Publics are government officials that certify signatures for legal documents but do not take on financial responsibility.

It is also important to note that different companies are able to provide different amounts of coverage for the transfer. If you are planning on transferring or selling an asset that requires the Medallion Signature Guarantee you will want to make sure they can cover the full amount of the asset or your request may be rejected. For more information about surety limits: https://alliancebernstein.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1343/~/what-are-the-surety-limits-associated-with-medallion-signature-guarantee%3F.


The Accidental Beneficiary

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By Attorney Daniel Vu

Changing who will inherit your estate can be a lot trickier than you think. You might think that all that you need to do is change your Will. However, changing only your Will would be a costly mistake. The beneficiaries you intend to inherit your estate will lose out on any asset not governed by your Will. Any asset that has named beneficiaries avoids probate and is not governed by a Will. For example, your IRA avoids probate because you most likely have designated beneficiaries on each individual IRA policy. This is also the case with your life insurance policies and many other types of financial accounts. So if most of your assets will avoid probate, changing just your Will would effectively change very little of your estate distribution and it may cause you to accidentally leave something to someone you had no longer wanted to receive as much or anything at all.

If you want to make sure you are not creating an “accidental beneficiary”, you will want to coordinate the changes on your Will and each and every asset that has named beneficiaries. In many cases a Trust can make this easier. For example, if all of your assets are owned (“funded”) into a Trust or made payable to a Trust, then you can make a change with one simple amendment to the Trust. The beneficiaries on all assets owned by the Trust would automatically change. But beware, even if you have a Trust it does not mean that everything will be controlled by the Trust. For various legal or tax reason there may be a select few things that must be left out of the control of the Trust so you will still need to do your due diligence to make sure that all of your distributions by Will, Trust or otherwise are updated to reflect your latest wishes.

Of course it is not uncommon to see people will change their wishes on their Will or Trust but forget about changing their IRA or something else not in the Trust or probated by the Will. This is fine if that difference was intended! Otherwise it’s a costly mistake for your intended beneficiaries and a very lucky thing to happen to your now accidental beneficiaries!

What Should I Do If I Can’t Find Mom or Dad’s Original Will?

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By Mary Roberts

When a loved one passes away, one of the first things family members do is look for the Will of the deceased. The Probate Court requires the original Will, but if that document was created 20, 30, 40 or more years ago, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to find. So what do you do if you can’t find that original Will? Here are a few things to try:

  1. Call the Probate Court in the county in which your parents lived and check to see if they have filed it there for safe-keeping.

  2. Call any previous attorneys that have represented Mom and Dad. They may have retained it in their safe.

  3. If you have a signed copy of the Will, contact your attorney of choice and ask him or her to probate the signed copy. There is a process by which the Judge will admit a signed copy of a Will to probate. This is known in the court’s terms as a “Spoilated Will”. It is a fairly simple process where the witnesses are asked to verify that they did, in fact witness the signing of this Will. The attorney who prepared it can also verify it for the Court.

If you or a loved one needs help with estate planning, please contact Cooper, Adel & Associates at 1-800-798-5297 for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.