law offices of merwyn j. miller
191 calle Magdalena, suite 270 • encinitas, San Diego County, ca  92024 • 760-436-8832

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Lawyers Make Big Deals Out of Nothing So They Can Charge Huge Fees

How Medi-Cal Works
What Are Attorneys Really Trying To Do
Doing It Legally
Medi-Cal Reimbursement
Perjury Penalty

Dear Mr. Miller:

Introduction: I figured out how you guys work—just look at the case and tell the client if he doesn’t hire you he’s going to have huge losses–even if he won’t. I saw a lawyer two years ago, he said if I didn’t have an Irrevocable Trust for my Dad, Medi-Cal was going to take everything. He wanted $9000 to put everything together. (back to top)

Lying: I simply said “no,” went home, transferred $100,000 from my previously divorced Dad’s bank account to me and my brother and applied for Medi-Cal for my Dad. They have been paying for his Skilled Nursing Facility at the rate of $10,000 per month since. Dad died 3 months ago. I received a letter from Medi-Cal requesting reimbursement from his estate. I simply told them he had nothing when he died, which was true.

We saved $9000 and a whole lot of hassle and did it the easy way! Irrevocable Trust, what B.S. Just all to line the lawyer’s pocket! (back to top)

Richer and Wiser

Dear Richer:

How Medi-Cal Works: You may be wiser but you may also wind up in the state penitentiary for fraud. Just to catch up our readers who are not familiar with Long Term Care Medi-Cal, this is the state program that pays for skilled nursing facilities. To be eligible, a single person can have no more than $2000. Typically, Medi-Cal checks all of the applicant’s financial records for the last 30 months to see whether there were any gifts. Apparently, they missed this one, usually they don’t. If they had caught it, Dad would have been ineligible for 12 months. At $10,000 per month that would equal $120,000 of lost benefits–more than what you “saved.” (back to top)

What Are Attorneys Really Trying To Do: Do attorney’s really make up things to get the client to pay them? Based on the attorneys I know, I think this is probably pretty rare. What this writer is failing to understand is that the attorney’s job is to identify the issues in the case, i.e. the things that have to be dealt with in order to accomplish the desired result. In my practice, I raise the issues with the client, the client decides whether this is an issue about which he wishes to be concerned or not. If a satisfactory result (although possibly tweaked slightly from the original desire) can probably be obtained without dealing with a particular issue, then I have no problem. The fee is based on the things the client thinks are important, not what I think is important. However, if the client simply wants to lie in order to obtain the desired result (sort of like simply refusing to declare significant income to the IRS on a tax return), then that is probably not a client with whom I wish to be involved. (back to top)

Doing It Legally: This writer could have accomplished his goal legally, without any fraud, by having Dad make gifts to his brother and himself in stages as would have been recommended by the attorney. Following this approach, Dad would have been ineligible for approximately 1 month (a cost of $10,000) rather than 12 (a cost of $120,000) and no prison term would have been hanging over the writer’s head. (back to top)

Medi-Cal Reimbursement: But the big kicker is that Medi-Cal wants its money back (reimbursement) when the applicant (Dad) dies. They take that out of the estate, essentially the children’s inheritance. And if there is a house, reimbursement can come from that asset, too. So Medi-Cal may still receive its money. The irrevocable trust the attorney advised would have protected from that result. So, let’s see: $9000 to save $110,000 (120,000-10,000) and to prevent Medi-Cal reimbursement. A pretty reasonable fee in my mind. (back to top)

Perjury Penalty: In this case, simply lying may have accomplished the goal. But most Medi-Cal forms are signed under penalty of perjury. Richer and Wiser could end up in the state pen for up to four years. And the State could seize the $100,000. Will they? I guess that just depends on how lucky this writer is. (back to top)